How to Conduct Appreciative Conversations

In appreciative conversations, there are no correct answers. The questions you ask are intended to help the group reflect on the past and reach a shared understanding. You can also create a positive foundation for discussion by replacing problem-focused language with appreciative language.

Asking questions

Each type of question has a different purpose within a conversation. Open-ended questions are useful for gathering information and prompting reflection, while closed questions are helpful when you need more details on a specific aspect.

Open-ended questions vs. closed questions

Example 1: Open-ended question

“When you think about person-centered care, what does it look like?”

Example 2: Closed question

“Which of these three procedures for how to improve our practice would you prefer to focus on?”

You can also use these reflective questions to help people think about their strengths and imagine the future:

  • Describe a time when you felt proud/excited/passionate about your work.
  • Think of a time when you felt you really made a difference in a client's life.
  • Tell me about the last time you were inspired by a colleague.
  • Describe a time when you felt you really respected and appreciated a colleague who offered a different point of view than your own.
  • Name a tool, method, or process that was introduced to the clinic in the past year and made a positive impact.
  • How can we do more of what already works well?

Using appreciative language

Replacing problem-focused language with appreciative language takes a little practice. The examples below will help you recognize when language is problem-focused and think about alternatives.

Problem-focused vs. appreciative language

Example 1: Personal change

 “I don't have time to be person-centered in my daily practice.” (problem-focused)

“What would it look like if I introduced a two-minute, person-centered activity into each appointment this week?” (appreciative)

Example 2: Relationship with colleagues

“The thing is, my colleague is more concerned with time and efficiency than the quality of the care we provide clients.” (problem-focused)

“What is my colleague's understanding of quality? What common values do we share?” (appreciative)

Example 3: Relationship with manager

“My staff do not follow the procedure that I lay out for them.” (problem-focused)

“How can I engage the team in a conversation about the routines I would like to see in the clinic?” (appreciative)