Giving and Receiving Feedback


Once you start asking appreciative questions in daily conversations or facilitated sessions, you should expect to receive different reactions. People's reactions are guided by personal readiness and motivation for accepting change, the topic you brought up, possibly the process you are suggesting, as well as the time, place and people involved.

Changing mindsets towards new meaning, routines, methods or tools is a gradual process where strong emotions such as fear can appear at any time. Your challenge as an appreciative facilitator is to accommodate the reactions and viewpoints, including any issues that come up during the process. Although the appreciative approach focuses on the things that work well, it does not exclude or ignore any problems or barriers that a person brings to the conversation. Identified problems are instead seen as drawing attention to an unmet need or personal preference.

Reacting to Resistance

When one meets resistance to change from others, you should attempt to uncover the habits and values that guide the other person's reactions.

Here, an appreciative sequence of questions might be:

  • What would the other person like to see more of?

  • What other ways exist for meeting this preference or value?

  • How can we accommodate the different needs present in this situation?

These questions differ from linear thinking, which focuses on the problem and a solution, rather than the situation.


Sarah Lewis discusses how to manage skeptics and presents ways to bring them into the process without losing focus on people who are content and excited about the process.

Adam Beckman reflects on ways to incorporate staff members who are reluctant to try something new. One way is to get more enthusiastic staff members to share their experiences and build commitment to the process from the bottom-up.

Receiving Reactions Appreciatively

There are likely to be many different kinds of people in your group who will respond differently to the change process. Below are some examples of human reactions, their possible reasons and suggestions on how you can respond.

Quiet Person

Possible Reasons
  • Tired or having a bad day
  • In disagreement with other people present
  • Shy or insecure
  • Stressed about time and other scheduels
  • Bored
  • Resistant to subject
  • Difficulty connecting with process
Appreciative Response
  • Clear eye contact
  • Engage person when they contribute
  • Recognize their contribution and relate it to the topic
  • Ask open-ended appreciative questions
  • Encourage them to share their views on the topic or process
In a Facilitated Session
  • Encourage participants to share their views. 
  • Start off with one-on-one activities before discussing as a group.
  • Have participants reconsider 'why is this topic important for me' in one-on-one session.
  • During a break, ask how they feel about the process and the topic.

Dominant, Talkative Person

Possible Reasons
  • Natural need for attention
  • Prepared for the meeting a lot or did not prepare at all
  • Insecure about the topic or process
  • Feels they are an expert on the topic or process
  • Feels their views are not being heard
Appreciative Response
  • Clear eye contact with the person
  • Engage person directly
  • Repeat important points and how they relate to the topic/process 
  • Ask the person if you have understood their views
  • Draw attention to the change occurring here and now
  • Remind them about the time limits and the need to cover all areas
In a Facilitated Session
  • Appreciate the person's contribution and ensure they feel heard.
  • Encourage activity from other members as a counter-balance.
  • If side conversations start, ask if their conversation can add value to the entire group.
  • Remind the person that the other participants would like his or her attention.

Overly critical or resistant person

Possible Reasons
  • Have a natural, critical approach - feel they need to be critical
  • Upset or insecure about things being discussed
  • Feel their views are not being acknowledged
  • Protecting their own interests
Appreciative Response
  • Paraphrase comments and ask if you have understood the main points correctly.
  • Seek to summarize the position objectively.
  • Repeat comments back to the person, rather than analyzing them or suggesting solutions. This will move the conversation along and prevent potential conflict. 
  • Appreciate their contibutions.
  • Ask 'around' the critique. "What would they like to see more of and how can it be accommodated?" 
In a Facilitated Session
  • Open group discussion around the topic.
  • Encourage group to find ways of integrating the person's views into the process.
  • Encourage person to summarize all the different points in the session.

Stuck on Trivial Procedures or Issues

Possible Reasons
  • The issue is important for them and they feel it is unresolved.
  • They feel their views have not been heard in previous processes.
Appreciative Response
  • Take a step back and help identify the underlying needs behind the issue.
  • Ask "Which needs are not being met?" or "What would you like more of?"
In a Facilitated Session

Ask participants to discuss the underlying needs behind the issue in small groups and come up with one suggestion to resolve it.

Ask each group to present and write down their suggestions.

Say that you will keep the suggestions for later reflection and then move on with the process.