Words create worlds: gain perspective with appreciative inquiry

The language we use is powerful. It frames our thinking, encourages beliefs that may or may not always helpful to us or others. This article explores Appreciative Inquiry as a technique to help you deal with the challenges of modern life more successfully.

Go to the profile of Beverly Landais PCC
Feb 13, 2020
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Appreciative Inquiry is a questioning technique that encourages an appreciative gaze on the best of past and present positive experience. This approach aims to enable a person to access their strengths, resources and insights, thus becoming better equipped to deal with current or future challenges and pursue their goals more successfully.  

The technique of Appreciative Inquiry began as a change management approach that developed in the 1990s. The work done by Dr David Cooperrider to develop Appreciative Inquiry helps us by providing a methodology for navigating change. In particular by learning how to apply strengths-based strategies in different situations. 

The language we use is powerful. It frames our thinking and encourages beliefs that may or may not always be helpful to us and others. Our behaviour is the result of our beliefs. In turn, our habits are formed from our routine and often automatic response to certain situations or people. The result is succinctly expressed by Dr Cooperrider, who says "We live in the worlds our conversations create." 

Appreciative Inquiry enables us to engage with change more successfully as it promotes self-awareness, a strong sense of self-efficacy and personal resourcefulness. This method is equally suitable for organisational settings as well as being helpful for self-coaching. This style of questioning together with the exploration of the answers, can enhance the performance of high-functioning teams as well as help teams that experience conflict. It creates an environment for 'conversations worth having.'*

As a self-coaching technique, the approach is useful for building self-esteem as it highlights your skills, capabilities and strengths. Purposefully recalling good experiences can make you stronger and more resilient as it reminds you that you can act to enable a beneficial change. It can also motivate you to continue or grow helpful habits. 

Here are some sample Appreciative Inquiry questions to help you explore the technique:

  • Tell me about some of the high point experiences you have had in your life?
  • What is it like when you feel alive and engaged in what you do?
  • When you are at your best, what do you most value about yourself?
  • What are some of the highlights that you have experienced in life?
  • What or who inspires you? 
  • Thinking of a time when you overcame a challenge, which skills, capabilities and resources did you use?  
  • How might you tap these skills, capabilities and resources to support you now? 
  • What might be the first step that will take you closer to your goal? 

You can use Appreciative Inquiry to frame difficult issues in a manner that enables you to gain perspective and mindfully consider all your options. Here's a step by step process: 

  • Step 1. Name it. What is the problem, complaint or thing you don't want?
  • Step 2. Flip it. What is the positive opposite – the thing you want?
  • Step 3. Frame it. What is the positive impact if the flip were true? What might be the desired outcome?
  • Step 4. Forward it. What is one thing you can do today to move towards what you want?

Try it for yourself and see the difference this approach can make to handling challenging situations more successfully.  

Sources & Recommended Reading:
Stavros, J. and Torres, C (2018) Conversations Worth Having, Berret-Koehler *Magruder Watkins, J. and Mohr, B.J. (2001) Appreciative Inquiry, Pfeiffer

Go to the profile of Beverly Landais PCC

Beverly Landais PCC

Certified Individual & Team Coach , www.beverlylandais.co.uk

Beverly is a Professional Certified Coach (PCC), Chartered Manager and Chartered Marketeer. She comes to coaching from a senior business background, including board level. Her purpose is simple. She works with people to help them be at their resourceful best. She can help you do the things that promote wellbeing, bring personal as well as professional satisfaction and make you happy.

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