What NLP Can Learn From Appreciative Inquiry

Recently I was interviewed by Robyn Stratton-Berkessel for her ‘Positivity Strategist’ podcast about the links between NLP and Appreciative Inquiry. Appreciative Inquiry, if you haven’t come across it before, is a method for bringing about change based on finding what’s working and building on it, rather than trying to analyse and fix problems. During the […]

Present to Desired State model: is a problem focus built into NLP?

Like most NLP practitioners, the way I was trained to do NLP techniques was broadly: “Here’s a technique. Now, think of a suitable problem, and try this technique out on each other”. By the end of the NLP Practitioner training, I was running out of problems; a situation which became more acute by the time […]

The Case for an Appreciative Frame in Life and NLP

A ‘frame’ in NLP is used to refer to a way of looking at things – roughly equivalent to ‘frame of reference’ in everyday English. A particular frame determines what we focus our attention on (the things that are ‘inside’ the frame) and what we ignore (everything else that is ‘outside’ the frame) for a […]

The NLP S.C.O.R.E. Model (Part 3: Using the S.C.O.R.E. with an Appreciative Focus)

In the last posting we looked at how to use the NLP
S.C.O.R.E. model
in practice. Now we are ready to see how
much more powerful it becomes when we use it with an 'Appreciative

Using the S.C.O.R.E. with an Appreciative Frame

Viewed through an Appreciative frame, "Symptom" becomes "Situation". We
are able to look at the whole of the current situation, not just the
'problem' aspects.

In fact, according to the principles of Appreciative Inquiry and
Solution Focus, we will get better results by focusing on what's
already working in the current situation so that we can do more of it,
rather than focusing on problems.

Research by Richard Boyatzis at Case Western Reserve University
suggests that effective change needs to focus on a person's strengths
and a vision of the ideal self before attempting to address
deficiencies in performance. Why? Because people go into stress when
their shortcomings are pointed out, and people under stress can't learn
and therefore don't change in any lasting way.

By inquiring into what's currently working and where the seeds of
solutions are already beginning to happen, and into what has already
been achieved and what the individual (or team) is proud of, both the
past and the present become a repository of resources to be drawn on,
rather than threats to be defended against or deficiencies to be
ashamed of.

When you focus on what's already working, it becomes easier to imagine
the desired outcome. It's much easier to decide what you want when your
vision is grounded in a rich foundation of memories and reference
experiences, rather than starting with a blank canvas and trying to
dream something up. Visioning the future would be even harder if you
had just been focusing on problems, performance gaps, constraints and
mistakes, due to 'State Dependent Memory'.


Scaling helps the coachee to get away from "all or nothing" thinking
and "catastrophising" – thinking that whatever is wrong in the current
situation makes it a complete disaster. The very act of assessing how
things are on a scale gets the performer out of viewing any situation
as either all good or all bad.

The basic scaling

On a scale of 0 to 10
where 0 is the worst it's ever been, and 10 how it's going to be when
all the problems are solved, where are you now on that scale?

Supplementary questions to discover more resources in the present, and
remind the coachee of past achievements:

  • You are at n now, how did you get that far?
  • How do you stop yourself sliding back to n-1?

Suggested questions for each stage



  • What's already working?
  • Where is the solution already happening – even in part?
  • When is the problem not so bad?
  • What skills/money/equipment do you have that will help you
    to solve your problem?
+ basic scaling question


  • How did you make that happen?
  • When did you achieve similar things before?
  • How have you overcome a problems like that before?
  • The situation is at n  now – what did you do to
    get it up from n-1?
  • What have you been doing that's stopped the situation
    getting worse?


  • What is your goal?
  • What do you want instead of <symptoms>?
  • What do you want more of?
  • If you were able to get what you wanted, what would it be?


  • What would happen if you reached your outcome?
  • What will it do for you/your team/your organisation/society
    for you to attain your goal?
  • After you have reached your outcome, what will you do?
  • What will happen next?
  • How will reaching your outcome change things?
  • How will it change you?
  • What will you learn from it?

If you try this, let me know how you get on!

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