Asking Appreciative Questions

When working with the appreciative approach, the questions you ask are often intended to start conversations rather than receive definite, 'correct' answers. This way, your questions become a means to help you reflect and create new shared meaning in conversations.

To successfully develop and ask appreciative questions in your everyday work life, it is helpful to understand how 'problem' language can be rephrased into appreciative language. Acquiring this skill is a change process in itself and it takes practice. One of the first steps is to be able to recognize if and when your language is problem-focused.

How To Rephrase Language

Problem-Focused Language

Personal Change

It is just that I don't have time to be person-centered in my daily practice.

Relationship with colleagues

The thing is, my colleague is more concerned with time and efficiency than the quality of the care we provide clients.

Relationship with manager

The problem is that my staff do not follow the procedure that I lay out for them.

Appreciative Language

Personal Change

What would my practice look like if I introduced a 2-minute, person-centered activity into each appointment this week?

Relationship with colleagues

What might be my colleague's understanding of quality? What common values do we share?

Relationship with manager

How can I engage the team in a conversation about the routines I would like to see in the clinic?

Reflective Questions

You can use appreciative questions to help people reflect on the past and create visions for the future. Reflective questions are mostly open-ended.

Reflect on existing resources and strengths:

  • 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 offering a different point of view other than your own.

  • Name a positive tool, method, or process that was introduced to the clinic this past year

Imagine the future:

  • What would a workday feel like if you did more of what works best, more of the time?

  • How can you do more of what already works well?

Open vs. Closed

Appreciative questions can be both open-ended, for example, 'How do you feel wearing your hearing aid?' or closed questions, for example, 'which of these three colors would you like?'

Each type of question has a different purpose within a conversation. Open-ended questions gather more information and increase reflection, while closed questions are helpful when you need more details on specific pieces of information.