River Street Consultant
Before someone can begin to utilize appreciative inquiry, they must first know what it is and what it means. There are many techniques and practices that can be used with appreciative inquiry that anyone can use in their lives. Learning about appreciative inquiry not only benefits the employee, but the entire company. It helps address ways to encourage positive ways of thinking instead of using negativity or even criticism.
What is Appreciative Inquiry?
The definition of appreciative inquiry is the ability to recognize the best in people and utilizing those strengths to discover new possibilities and results. Appreciative inquiry focuses on positive thinking and expresses ideas and opinions to reach an end result. What does that mean for you or your business? Appreciative inquiry in the workplace encourages employees to think positively, which in turn helps them to overcome their own negative thoughts to work harder and reach their own goals for better productivity.
Generating a Better Future
Appreciative inquiry helps build a vision for a better future by using questions to turn the person’s attention to their past, present and future successes. These questions generally focus on what the person enjoys about their surroundings and their current situations. Once these ideas have been identified, the individual can take these positive thoughts to turn toward the future and build a path to success. Since we, as people, learn from our past mistakes and choices, we can use questions and insights to decide what we can use to make the right choices later. The key is identifying what works for you, and how you can use them to your advantage to create a better future.
Ways to create your future today:
• Determine your goals
• Make a plan for them
• Identify how appreciative inquiry can affect these goals and plans
Engaging People in Positive Thought
One of the age-old ways of determining how a person views a situation is asking them if the glass is half full or half empty. Many pessimists will reply that the glass is half empty while opportunists will see the glass as half full. Even one pessimist in the group can hinder everyone else’s positive attitude, so it is important to engage every employee in positive thinking. When everyone avoids criticism and implements the ‘can do attitude’, it not only creates a pleasant work environment for everyone, but employees begin to feel better about themselves and take pride to finish any job with ease.
Engaging others to think positive:
• Encourage group discussions
• Invite others to share their ideas and opinions
• Make them focus on the positive side of things and avoid negative phrasings
Change the Person, Change the Organization
When employees take pride in themselves, they also take pride in their company. But if they have negative feelings about where they work, it can show in their productivity. When you change how a person views or thinks about the company and their roles in it, you in turn change how the company is perceived as a whole. This is why it is always important to meet with employees and listen to what they have to say; value their ideas and opinions.
If the employee feels as though they are making a contribution to the company and are a part of the master plan, they will feel more inclined to think positively and alter the overall view of the organization. With positive and reflective employees the organization should then become a positive entity and provide a better environment for everyone.
Changing the Way You Think
One of the simplest ways to relieve stress and feel better about ourselves is to change the way we think about things in our lives. Having a positive attitude allows a person to change their own lives because it shows that they have an understanding of their surroundings and feel confident enough to use them to their advantage. But if we hide behind negative thoughts and allow our environment to make us sad or depressed, we may never have the drive to reach for our goals and ambitions.
Shifting from “What’s Wrong?” to “What’s Right?”
One of the first things that can ruin a positive attitude is looking at a situation and only noticing the negative aspects, or the “What’s Wrong” side. Since the main focus of appreciative inquiry is being positive and aiming towards goals, a pessimistic attitude won’t get anyone very far. When presented with a problem, take a few minutes and look at both sides of the problem. Make a mental list of everything that is positive about the situation before touching on the negative aspects. You’ll find that any situation won’t appear as bad as we think when we notice the positive first.
Keys to shifting our thoughts:
• Avoid the “all or nothing” thinking – deciding a situation only has two sides.
• Realize the difference between being right and being happy.
• Avoid over-generalizing a situation – focus on details.
It’s Not Eliminating Mistakes-It’s Holding up Successes
A common misconception that people make is that being positive or progressive means they cannot make mistakes nor have faults. This, of course, is untrue. Mistakes happen all the time, and although they can sometimes be prevented, they cannot be stopped altogether. The key is to learn from your mistakes and then focus on the successes that follow them.
When a child falls off their bike before learning to ride, we do not focus on how many times they fell, but celebrate when they ride down the sidewalk on their own. Being positive doesn’t mean we eliminate mistakes or problems, we just learn to focus on the achievements we reach. Success leads to more success when we are focused on the positive.
Positive Language Will Affect People’s Thinking
From a young age we have learned that positive language has more effect on us than negativity. When we tell ourselves “I can’t do that” or “I’ll never finish this”, we normally find ourselves to be right. But if we use more positive and influential phrases and language, we find ourselves feeling more confident and ready to handle any situation. Positive words encourage positive thinking, so add some “I can…” and “I’m great” phrases to your vocabulary! Positivity is contagious, so don’t be afraid to share it with others and encourage them to think positive too.
Using positive language:
• Avoid negatives, such as “can’t” or “won’t”
• Reassure yourself and remind yourself of your abilities
• Compliment yourself – “Good job” and “Well done”
Limit or Remove Negative Phrasing
As we’ve said before, positive words encourage positive thinking. The same goes for negative phrasing – when we allow ourselves to use negative language, our thoughts become negative. Studies have shown that there are five key phrases that any person should remove from their vocabulary in order to ban negative language.
• Just – This word limits our accomplishments and devalues our skills. By saying phrases such as “I’m just an accountant” or “I just work in customer service” can make anyone feel happy in their job.
• Try – This word can often give us an excuse to fail. We will ‘try’ to accomplish something, but if we don’t succeed then it’s not our fault. We either do something or we don’t.
• Can’t – This word is often used when a person does not want to take the effort to reach a goal or accomplishment. Replace this word with a mental action plan on how you can act on your goals.
• Impossible – This word is normally used when we are faced with something big and overwhelming. However, anything can seem possible if broken down into smaller, more attainable jobs. Anything can be accomplished when we take things one step at a time.
• Someday- This word can have the same problem as ‘try’ – it sets us up to allow failure. When we plan to reach our goals “someday”, we are giving ourselves permission to procrastinate. Set a timeline for your goals and stick to them.
Source: Appreciative Inquiry Workshop
River Street Consultant