Belief, rather than doubt, is the proper stance. This is not a time for skepticism or for questions that imply a need for “proof”.
– Jane Magruder Watkins and Bernard J Mohr,
Appreciative Inquiry: Change at the Speed of Imagination
1. Assume vitality and health, rather than ‘deficit’.
You are looking for incidents and examples of things at their best.
2. The inquiry is the intervention.
You are not just gathering data. The questions you ask impact the emotional state of the interviewee and the ongoing, ever-changing image they have of the organisation and the change process.
3. It’s not just the questions, it’s how you ask them.
The non-verbal elements of your communication (voice tone, body language, the surroundings in which you do the interview) form a “meta-message” which influences people’s emotional state and shapes their expectations about the value and genuineness of the exercise.
When you are genuinely focused and interested, the interviewee will experience being fully heard and understood, and empathy will develop rapidly.
4. You are after stories, not opinions or analysis.
You want the interviewee to be reliving the experiences they are talking about and telling you what they thought and felt at the time, rather than examining them in a detached way and telling you what they think about them now. This way, you will get genuine rapport and trust develops, and you will get genuine experiences rather than the “official line” or what the interviewee thinks you want to hear.
5. Once you have the story, you can move on to values, life-giving factors and wishes.
The motivating power of values and wishes comes from their emotional charge. The emotions that the interviewees’ stories awake in them will enable them to identify what is really important about those experiences, and what they want for the future.