It’s one thing to train people to be appreciative interviewers – but how do you brief people in an Appreciative Inquiry summit or Appreciative Teambuilding event to interview each other?
Chances are, unless they coach or manage people for a living, they aren’t interested the nuances of Appreciative Inquiry or interpersonal dynamics per se. The interviews will be half an hour out of their life (probably 15 minutes each way), and they may not be paying that much attention until they’re actually interviewing the person in front of them.
How to brief participants before appreciative interviews
So how I normally brief people as they’re going into the appreciative interview part of the Discovery stage of an AI event is this:
- Be 100% interested in your interviewee – they will notice the difference!
- Assume that they have had some good experiences – so keep asking until you find one.
- You’re looking for a story – not detached analysis or a list of bullet points. So if the interview is over and done with in 5 minutes, you probably haven’t gone into enough depth.
- You’ll know when you’re doing a good interview when you see your interviewee start to lose themselves in the story and relive the experience, feeling the same emotions they felt at the time. You’ll know you’re doing a really good interview when you yourself as the interviewer start to feel some of those same emotions – that’s what happens when you’ve really made a connection.
- Go through the whole set of questions one way, then swap roles. Don’t try to answer each question together – you’ll get better qualify information if you immerse yourself in the story and answer all the questions from there, rather than have to keep coming out to ask a question and then going back in.
Trust the people – and trust the process
Finally, as a facilitator you have to accept that most people aren’t trained interviewers, so they may be doing aspects of the interview ‘wrong’.
For example, I often see managers, especially middle-aged male ones, doing their interviews with their arms folded, as if to create a barrier between them and the person they’re interviewing. But to intervene and suggest that they adopt a more ‘open’ body language would be to disrupt the interview and end up with a worse result.
Also, people may often use wording in their questions that is less than ‘perfect’ to elicit the best possible stories and answers that they could get from their interviewees. But the results will be good enough (at least they always have been in the events I’ve facilitated or observed so far).
People start opening up to each other despite themselves, body language loosens up, interviewees find and relate their positive stories even if the questions aren’t elegantly phrased.
The best we can do as Appreciative Inquiry facilitators is to frame the process in a way that people can understand and then let them get on with it, trusting the people and trusting the process.
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