But What About the Problems?

A question often asked during our trainings is, “What do we do when the client wants to focus on a problem?”

Crafting bold, provocative, positive questions is at the heart of an appreciative approach and its power lies in the unconditionally positive question. Why? Because it is not enough to know what you don’t want (the problem or complaint), it is more important to know what you do want.

We often think what we want is the opposite of what we don’t want. That’s a good place to start; however, does that truly capture the texture of what is really desired? What is the ideal?

Dr. Cheri Torres draws up a really useful matrix to help practice the muscle of reframing problems into appreciative topics. Here is our reworking of her reframing matrix:

Problem → Impact of the Problem → Desired Outcome → Best Outcome

Suppose, for example, a theoretical client recently complained of being tired. The challenge was to be able to frame up a topic for coaching that would elevate and enlivened her, rather than becoming mired in the problem and its mere opposite.

PROBLEM
I’m tired. I don’t want to be tired.
 
IMPACT OF THE PROBLEM
The impact of being tired is that I’m not present with my family, my work suffers, I can’t handle stress so I’m sick all the time

DESIRED OUTCOME (Absence of the Problem)
I want to be present with my family and at work;
I want to be able to manage stress and be healthy.
 
BEST OUTCOME
I want to feel alive and vibrant in my life engaging with family and colleagues in ways that bring joy and ease so that I can thrive no matter what happens.

What problems do you (or your client) have that may be re-framed into appreciative topics using the matrix above? What other exercises have you found helpful to help yourself (or others) flip the script from negative to positive?

Please share your thoughts and ideas with us on the Center for Appreciative Inquiry’s Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn pages.

Enjoy this exercise? If so, please join us for our 5-day Appreciative Inquiry Coaching Training (AICT) where we teach and demonstrate how Appreciative Inquiry can be used to engage in generative conversations with others. This advanced-level certification course will deepen your ability to identify, nurture and sustain the positive core with clients, as well as, within members of a team, department, organization, and community.

Two AICTs scheduled for 2017 – Cape Town, South Africa and San Diego, California.

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