inquiry questions - cat looking up

Inviting Inquiry Questions: A Core Choice for Appreciative Voice – PS97

Inviting Inquiry and Appreciative Voice

Inviting Inquiry Questions highlighted


The literacy we talk about in this episode is Inviting Inquiry. It is central to all the Literacies, and is central to Appreciative Voice.  Inquiry starts movements. Inquiry questions keep us open to possibilities and enable us to engage in further dialogue.  Inquiry helps us to discover the stories of others in potentially heartfelt ways.  Inquiry stimulates curiosity.  How curious are you about others and the world?  What information and stories might you seek?


Curiosity and Inquiry Questions

In his 2017 book, The Curiosity Gene, On the Origin of Humankind by Means of Intrinsic Motivation, science writer Alexandros Kourt posits that inquisitiveness is responsible not only for human survival but also for our evolution into the most intelligent creature on earth. He believes curiosity holds the key to happiness and personal fulfillment.

Writer Elizabeth Gilbert, author of seven books, including Eat Pray Love, her most well-known book, and Big Magic, her most recent, brings the idea even closer:

“I want to live in a society filled with people who are curious and concerned about each other rather than afraid of each other.  So taking this virtue of investigation, that gentle friend of curiosity, as something that we can live by would be good for us collectively.”

Invitations to Conversation

When we invite inquiry, and consciously construct inquiry questions it enables us to connect with others and to collect stories, information, intelligence, and even good will, something never to be underestimated.

Inquiry is such a pivotal life literacy that we remember those people who are good at asking questions.   They show interest in us and ask us thought-provoking, story making questions that move conversations past pleasantries.

We remember high school teachers, bosses and friends whose generative questions were life giving and life changing for us—they helped us develop insights into something important for us.

Neuroscience tells us we need to discover our own insights.  We learn better, not when someone tells us something, but when conversation or reflection shows us something, so that we see newly and make choices based on our new perceptions.  People support what they themselves create.  

Connecting with Strangers

Robyn tells us a story in this episode about her wonderful habit of engaging with drivers when she takes a cab. She always asks them:  “what’s the best thing that’s happened to you today?”  inquiry question - couple with speech bubbles She’s heard some amazing stories [recounted in her TedX Navesink Talk – Playful Inquiry, Try this Anywhere]. The drivers tell her what’s good about their day and start to connect in a heartfelt way. These are micro-moments of connection and love that Barbara Fredrickson teaches us in her book, Love 2.0. Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection. 

Fredrickson's research says these micro-moments occur because of the oxytocin hormone they release, fondly named the “great facilitator of life” as it precipitates pro-social behaviors and human connection.  In those conversations with strangers, Robyn finds she also experiences that sense so well expressed Margaret Wheatley, in her beautiful poem, in Turning to One Another: Simple Conversations to Restore Hope to the Future:

“You don’t fear people whose stories you know.”

The Basic Principles of Appreciative Inquiry

In Robyn’s cab driver story, we see how the basic principles of Appreciative Inquiry inform how we invite inquiry.

  • The Simultaneity Principle – inquiry and change are simultaneous in time.  In the cab story, the very moment a question is asked, it triggers a shift in the cab driver to respond.
  • The Positive Principle – the greater the positive intent in an inquiry, the more likely we are to find the goodness, the vitality, the beauty and love in each other and the situation.
  • The Poetic Principle – is all about interpretation. Each of us has our own truth, and that truth can change with time and experience.
  • The Anticipatory Principle – the more you start using language and images of what you want your reality to be, the more likely it is to happen. Positive image = Positive Action.
  • The Constructionist Principle – we construct our worlds through the relationships we have and what we talk about. Words make worlds.

You are welcome to read a fuller version of these foundational Appreciative Inquiry Principles.

The Appreciative Voice Literacies Guide

Seven Literacies to living and leading in these times

The 7 Literacies of Appreciative Voice

A summary and infographics of all the literacies, offering a definition, a description and daily practices to amplify your appreciative voice, plus the articles and podcast episodes to explain each.

Inviting Inquiry Daily

How might we ‘dailify’ inviting inquiry?

  • Being curious
  • Paying Attention; Being open and listening
  • Forming powerful inquiry questions to connect, create and call forth stories
  • Inviting inquiry within ourselves, taking time out for self-reflection, especially in moments when we are stressed or at odds in a situation.

Try this:

  1. Start meetings and family meals with a generative question, like Robyn’s question to cab drivers:  What’s the best thing that happened….?
  2. When problems are framed in a deficit way, invite inquiry about how the situation can be reframed toward solutions (the literacy in our next episode.)
  3. Before you answer a question or start giving your opinion about something, consider asking a new question to help the questioner think more deeply.

The Literacy Continuum

Becoming adept at asking questions is key to Appreciative Voice.

Perhaps we are better off focusing on becoming more literate in posing powerful questions in the moment than in making sure we know the answers or are good speechmakers.

When it comes to Inviting Inquiry, how literate do you feel?

Where might you place yourself on a continuum for inviting inquiry?  Maybe closer to zero, if you feel like these ideas are somewhat new to you. Or, if you feel farther along the path to mastery, you might find yourself closer to 10!  Let us know!

LIteracies continuum

 Life Saving-Questions

  1. What do you/we already know about a topic?
  2. What are you/we curious about now? What information and stories might you/we seek?
  3. What particular questions do you/we want answered?
  4. What will help you/us move forward in this situation?


It’s your choice to find and express your Appreciative Voice.

Connect with Sallie and Robyn

Sallie on LinkedIn

Robyn on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +Positivity Strategist  

Links to Resources Mentioned

Invitation to AI Jam in September in Burlington Vermont, US

Robyn’s TedX Navesink Talk: Playful Inquiry: Try this Anywhere

Books Mentioned in this Episode

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The Curiosity Gene: On the Origin of Humankind by Means of Intrinsic Motivation

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Love 2:0Finding Happiness and Health in Moments of Connection

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Big Magic

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Turning to One Another

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