13 encouraging questions

“never mind the answers – just ask the right questions!”

this is so true. last sunday i participated in a conference, dream vancouver, intended to encourage citizens to articulate their visions and hopes for an even better vancouver. the main process of the conference was organized around appreciative inquiry.

appreciative inquiry is a philosophy and approach that engages individuals within an organizational system in its renewal, change and focused performance. at the heart of AI is a particular way of asking questions and envisioning the future that fosters positive relationships and builds on the basic goodness in a person, a situation, or an organization. it utilizes a 4-stage process focusing on:

  • discovery
  • dreaming
  • design; and
  • delivery

all of these processes are driven by questions. this is not much different from therapy, particularly an approach to therapy very dear to my heart, satir transformational systemic therapy.

here are a few examples of powerful questions. they can be used in many ways, among other ways in supporting people in moving forward with particular issues they might find a bit intimidating. they are encouraging questions, then.

  1. imagine getting up on monday morning. what will you say to yourself to support yourself when you talk to the principal at 10:00?
  2. what exciting feelings come up as you think about handing in your resignation tomorrow?
  3. you said that just thinking about making that phone call to bob makes you want to bite your nails. what would have to happen for you to completely forget about your nails?
  4. what would supper look like if your kids got along better?
  5. if you did manage to get up before 11:00, how would that make your whole day better?
  6. what would calm down the scared part of you?
  7. let’s just say that for some reason, tom will use his kind voice when he comes home tonight, not his angry voice. will your stomach feel better?
  8. are you listening to the still voice inside you?
  9. clearly, there are a lot of things you can’t do. what can you do, even a little thing?
  10. who is your greatest ally?
  11. you say you feel calm right now. what can you do to remember this feeling next wednesday?
  12. what can you do to reward yourself afterwards?
  13. who else in your family needs support so that everyone feels they’re part of planning this wedding?

what questions encourage you?

(this post was mentioned in the 110th carnival of healing and has also been entered in litemind’s list group writing project)


14 thoughts on “13 encouraging questions

  1. nancy (aka money coach)

    I wish I could have joined you at the conference! Appreciate Inquiry shapes much of my content with financial coaching. The question changes from “What’s financially broken and how can we fix it” to the more inspiring question, “what is working for you, and how can you have more of it?” The latter question opens up a lot of space for possibility.

  2. isabella mori

    actually, not all of the conference was useful – but i really enjoyed the part about asking the right questions.

    come to think of it, this is very similar to generating solutions vs. fixing problems – i talked about that here.

  3. Lawrence Cheok | A Long Long Road

    Hi Isabella, indeed, asking the right questions changes the whole equation of our perspective and the way we approach problems in life.

    At work, when facing an issue in a project, instead of asking “whose fault is it?” we should ask “how do we solve the problem?” This has really helped me to be constructive and solution-oriented in my work.

    Thanks for highlighting this great point!

  4. Neena (NeenMachine)

    Asking “encouraging” questions is a useful parenting technique as well. When the kids are trying to work through an issue it is easy to say “just do this” instead of asking them the right question so they can work through it themselves.

  5. isabella mori

    thanks for your comments, neena and lawrence.

    the more i use this, the more i also realize that phrasing the question in an interesting and specific way makes a big difference.

    e.g. saying, “when i checked on friday, you were doing a great job on this project. how have you been doing since then?” is already pretty good and encouraging. but it’s still a bit general. finding the question that gets to the heart of the matter is what can make a huge difference.

    e.g. “i loved the work you’ve done on your project, especially the rose trellis. i see it’s almost done, and i know it’s going to look fantastic. what do you need to do to finish it?”

  6. healthlady

    You make a good point. I think most people fail to take the time to think before they speak and end up offending others rather than encouraging them to do a good job.

  7. KhaosGirl

    I agree. People are so quick to judge or act that they don’t bother to think. They want instant gratification or results and just blurb anything out.

    KhaosGirl’s last blog post..Learned

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