Asking Positive Questions

February 26th, 2024 | Leadership
Asking Positive Questions

Excerpted from Chapter 5, “The Art of Asking Questions”

Appreciative Inquiry

It is best if the leader frames questions in a positive way, using what David Cooperrider refers to as appreciative inquiry. Appreciative inquiry is “the study and exploration of what gives life to human systems when they function at their best.” This approach to personal and organizational change is based on the assumption that questions and dialogue about strengths, successes, values, hopes, and dreams are themselves transformational (for both the questioner and the person being questioned). It is a relational process of inquiry, grounded in affirmation and appreciation.

So instead of asking what went wrong, the wise leader will tend to ask questions that focus on what has gone well, what could be done differently, how things could be improved. The approach will guide the group in seeking what might be rather than what is not. The focus remains on improvement and continuous learning rather than complaining and venting. By being open‐minded and not negative, the leader encourages fresher and broader ranges of responses.

Questions that Give Praise and Build Rapport

Ian Cooper, who has advised business leaders for over 30 years, emphasizes the importance of asking questions that give praise and build rapport. He notes that genuine praise and compliments are always appreciated and, provided they are given sincerely and in context, are a great tool for building rapport.

Examples of such questions:

  • “Have you any idea just how good your work is?”
  • “Do you realize how effective you were in that business meeting earlier today?”
  • “Where did you learn to do that? … it was just fantastic.”

You could, of course, simply “tell” somebody something positive about themselves. However, when you frame your comment as a question you influence them into giving a proper response, which invariably leads to a positive conversation about “them” that you control. Even if they pretend to be embarrassed, the exchange will make most people feel good.

Responding to Complex or Confusing Questions

Oftentimes, when we are asked a question, we instantly respond with the answer to what we thought was the question. Most people are polite, and don’t say, “you completely missed my question.” We have discovered that the simple response of “Please tell me more?” is perhaps the best way to respond to questions that may be complex or confusing.

 

Bob Tiede

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Bob has been on the staff of Cru for 52 years. He currently serves on the U.S. Leadership Development Team and is passionate about seeing leaders grow and multiply their effectiveness. Bob and his wife, Sherry, live in Plano, TX and are blessed with 4 incredible children and 8 remarkable grandchildren.

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