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Are You Communicating Constructively?

“One of the most important things when interacting with other human beings is good communication.” I say this so often and it never seems to lose relevance in my point of view.

But how do we improve our communication? Why do people object to your ideas even if they seem absolutely great to you? Who is just bashing you and who is trying to work together with you for a more optimal way to solve a problem? And how to be communicating constructively?

What is an Appreciative Inquiry?

One of the approaches I really liked was the “Appreciative Inquiry” (AI). It’s primary target is not designed around communication but for data analysis and decision-making. What can we make out of this?

Wikipedia says…

Appreciative Inquiry (AI) is a model for analysis, decision-making and the creation of strategic change, particularly within companies and other organizations. It was developed at Case Western Reserve University’s department of organizational behavior, starting with a 1987 article by David Cooperrider and Suresh Srivastva. They felt that the overuse of “problem solving” as a model often held back analysis and understanding, focusing on problems and limiting discussion of new organizational models.

Appreciative Inquiry in Communication

In communication the approach for AI practitioners is an emotionally neutral way to raise comments in a constructive and positive way. Accepting the idea and opinion of someone else and building on top of it rather than just replacing their method with your own.

Even when your experiences tell you that their statement is not valid or will not lead to the common goal and output, it is still important to accept it and carefully share your wisdom. Everybody has a different set of experiences on which also their emotion, ideas and methods are based on.

Yet you need to consider that you are the one who lacks experience in a certain area and they might be right afterall. The goal of such a communication is to find the best solution together based on the shared experiences of everybody who is involved, not just go your way at all cost.

For this particular collecting and matching of experiences it is very useful to have a variety of people involved into the discussion. For most efficient brainstorming, ideation or even decision making, make sure you involve people of different culture, gender, age and professional background to build a group that can build great results.

Communication Map

We have prepared a visual map for you with an emotional axis and a productivity axis and placed some examples in it. When you are having a conversation or a meeting the next time, try to map what everybody is saying and you will understand whether or not they are building a constructive dialogue or try to break your argument and force their opinion through.

  1. Teacher: No, because…
  2. AI Practitioner: Yes, and…
  3. Dictator: No!
  4. Troublemaker: Yes, but…



In which quadrant do you find yourself? Are you a dictator after all or do you think you collaborate with the others to reach a common goal?

Further Reading

The Appreciative Inquiry Model

If you would like to understand more on the AI methods and theory please refer to The Appreciative Inquiry Model PDF from The Encyclopedia of Management Theory (Sage Publications).

Design Thinking

A great methodology for ideation and designing with a positive mindset is Design Thinking. It is one of the most popular ways to design new products, services or even whole businesses all focused on solving a particular problem that is defined at the beginning of each Design Thinking project. You can find more information around this in the process guide “An Introduction to Design Thinking” by the Stanford d.school.

Photo credit: David Hurt

Christopher Isak
Christopher Isakhttp://www.christopherisak.com
Hi there and thanks for reading my article! I'm Chris the founder of TechAcute. I write about technology news and share experiences from my life in the enterprise world. Drop by on Twitter and say 'hi' sometime. 😉


  1. Hi Chris. 🙂 Nice article. I learned a lot from this one, as usual. I really like the opening sentence, “One of the most important things when interacting with other human beings is good communication.” That is so true!!! I try to improve my communication daily. My question is, how can what you said be applied to online communication? I communicate with lots of people every week online. Sometimes there are situations that are hard to interpret online. Do you have any advice about that? I enjoyed reading about “Appreciative Inquiry.” I had never heard of that before. I experienced that at IBM last week. I didn’t realize it at the time, but after reading this, I understand. It’s such a positive and open way of accepting new ideas, points of view and possible solutions. 🙂

    • Its easy … just listen / read and spend at least one second to think about what was said / written. Swap the perspective sometimes and you will understand more people.

    • Hi Diana! Thanks for reading. I’m glad you liked my article.
      I think if we have only the text to interact with, it can be challenging indeed to communicate efficiently. To counter that there are a few things you could try (or all of them combined). For instance you could try to make it a habit of re-reading key segments of written communication. Also you can try to change your perspective to see how your communication counterpart would see the conversation at any moment before you reply or interact. One thing that works very well however (even if it is very hard to maintain it) to avoid absolute words in arguments because they are just unfair and really quickly upset the other side. An example for this is “you >neveralways< too late". This is just fuel to a fire of an unnecessary argument in private and professional life and should be avoided. i hope those were a little bit useful for you? Thanks again for reading and have a great day!

  2. […] It cannot be stressed enough how important people skills are for any business. First of all, they ensure that the people relations are good inside the company as good people skills mean that people are working well and communicate well. Moreover, it is virtually impossible to score any of the businesses and make deals if your people skills are bad. Work on them at all times and improve them constantly. If you are interested in the subject you should also check out our recent article on Emotional Intelligence and the Appreciative Inquiry. […]

  3. […] Emphasising lean communication means to be clear and direct while keeping the conversation polite and courteous. You need to communicate in a way that invites others to add value on top of the said statements and not enforce their isolated ideas at all costs. You’re building up the conversation based on appreciative inquiry. […]


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