The Five Principles of Appreciative Coaching


These five principles underlie every Appreciative Coaching relationship.

1. The Constructivist Principle

The Constructivist Principle acknowledges that we fashion our lives according to beliefs and experiences from our past, relationships we have now, and possibilities for our future. This means that to a large degree we are in charge of our reality. If we don’t like it, we have the power to change it.

Short meditation on the Constructivist Principle

The constructionist principle signals a belief in a world that is conditional. By this I mean that there are few things I hold as immutable, and many/most things as changeable, flexible, or situational. I change as I age. My children, students and clients change as their relationships, jobs, geography, and degree of maturity changes. My perceptions of what life is about change. I also believe that we make or affect our worlds and our reality together. My relationships are as good as each of us makes them. They are founded on agreements we make together, and remain strong for as long as we co-create them in each moment.

2. The Positive Principle

The Positive Principle acknowledges that encouragement and support help us to change and grow.

Short meditation on the Positive Principle

This one is easy. My positive emotions, conversation, actions, and interactions all lead to more satisfying and effective outcomes for me and for those with whom I am in relationship. I am not perfect at this. I whine, complain, and criticize. I think this is my natural state. AND, I’m happier and more effective when I act from a positive and enlivening attitude.

3. The Anticipatory Principle

The Anticipatory Principle acknowledges that what we see and believe we can do, we will work toward doing. If we can’t see it (and believe it) we can’t do it.

Short meditation on the Anticipatory Principle

I move and grow in the direction of what I anticipate. My vision of what I and my clients can be informs my action toward that vision. If I see myself as a successful speaker to audiences of coaches and managers, if I see what I have to say to those audiences, it is easier to move in the direction of that vision.

4. The Simultaneity Principle

The Simultaneity Principle acknowledges that when we are genuinely curious, and ask positive and powerful questions, the questions themselves set direction. Good questions point us in the direction of our thinking and action.

Short meditation on the Simultaneity Principle

A question or statement can cause me to change in the moment, or to move from one direction to another. When someone asks “Why do you do something in that way?” the question causes me to wonder whether there are other, better, shorter, or less stressful ways of doing that thing. Questioning and change can happen in the same moment.

5. The Poetic Principle

The Poetic Principle acknowledges that we can rewrite stories from our past in light of new experience. The story of a past experience changes with our growth and new experiences. We understand our past selves with more compassion and project what we know now onto that past.

Short meditation on the Poetic Principle

I am always retelling my story in light of the way I see myself and my world as of the present moment. Therefore something that happened to me in the past is endlessly reinterpretable as I understand myself and others better. As I understand more, I have greater compassion for myself and others knowing that we are all “in process.” I was writing an essay this morning about a place I used to carry in my dreams as my safe place. As I began to write about this, I saw something completely new about this white room I had protected in my dreams as my safe space. Poetry can do this. It can show us things about ourselves that have been previously unseen or unknown.

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