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Author's profile photo Jason Cao

Coach’s Corner – How Did You Do That?

There’s an old saying that “giving compliments is better than receiving.” Yet, with the pressure to be our “authentic-selves” today, the art and practice of giving compliments loss favour. I believe there is confusion and a mistake. The confusion is equating compliments with flattery, while the mistake is not utilizing our appreciation of others to its full potential.

In the coaching profession, there is a technique called appreciative inquiry that experienced coaches use with their clients. This technique is the combination of appreciation and questioning – or expressing appreciation in the form of a question.

“What experiences have inspired you the most in the past 10 years as a data scientist?”

“How does your past experience as a leader prepare you for this new role?”

“How do you do it…managing a young family while still staying on top of your team’s goals?”

As you can see, these are more than just small-talk and conversation starters. Appreciative inquiry builds rapport, trust, and more importantly helps our clients focus their attention on positive behaviours. Furthermore, the applications and outcomes go beyond the coaching practice. Imagine using appreciative inquiry in a mentoring relationship, team capacity-building workshop, creativity or problem solving challenge, conflict management, or even employee engagement and learning scenarios.

Preparation is key to maximizing the benefits of appreciative inquiry:

  1. Start with a curious heart and mind. We need to tap into our emotional and intellectual curiosity, thus making the switch from simply recognizing their talents to learning about their experience.
  2. Make the connection between what you know about the person or situation to what you want to know. How might their history and achievements support their current goals?
  3. Listen actively to determine how you will respond to what they share with you. What questions can you ask to encourage more uplifting stories?


Take the first step to building stronger relationships with those around you. There’s no better time than the present to show our appreciation for one another.

What’s the best compliment you can give?


Check out more blog posts in this series: Coach’s Corner.

Related blog posts:

Coach’s Corner – How We Are Valued

Coach’s Corner: Curiosity is Courageous


Photo by Giulia Bertelli on Unsplash

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      Author's profile photo Sumedha Varma
      Sumedha Varma

      Will surely be utilising this refreshing technique

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Yes, please let us know how it goes Sumedha Varma  (how do others respond, what changes do you notice in others/yourself?).

      What was the best compliment you've ever given?

      Author's profile photo Yvonne Benz
      Yvonne Benz

      Thank you for sharing, Jason, that makes so much sense. Appreciative inquiry sounds spot on. And we can apply this technique to conversations with our family members, colleagues, clients etc. It will make our conversations a lot more meaningful I think.

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Yes, that's so true Yvonne! We don't need to know much about the other person to make them feel welcomed and appreciated. When this positive aspect of our counterpart becomes the focal point and base for further knowledge-sharing, you can bet the conversation and stories that follow will be uplifting. 🙂

      Author's profile photo Ranjan Raman
      Ranjan Raman

      Great reminder, thanks for sharing Jason!

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for reading Ranjan! As seasoned coach, how do you build rapport with your coachees?

      Author's profile photo Mynyna Chau
      Mynyna Chau

      Love this series, Jason!

      Author's profile photo Jason Cao
      Jason Cao
      Blog Post Author

      Thanks for following and reading posts from this series Mynyna Chau !

      There's a lot of interesting and practical knowledge from which our entire community can benefit. These topics around self awareness, leadership and relationship building are relevant to technical and business-oriented folks alike and can be useful reminders no matter what career-stage we're in. I would love to see more community members reading and sharing their insights on these topics as well. 🙂