June 5, 2007

Prioritizing problems

Sometimes it is not easy to quickly understand what your client wants to be different. One example is when a client presents several problems at once. A client may say: “I am very dissatisfied with my work. There is a lot of stress, I don’t really like the work I am doing and I don’t get along with my boss. And now I am even taking my work problems home with me. I don't sleep well and I have some relationship problems too." In these situations it helps to prioritize problems. One simple way of doing this is to ask: “What is the first of these things you would like to talk about?" or: "What is the first thing you would like to be different?" Note that this does not have to be the most important problem. Sometimes clients want to address the most important problems first but often they prefer to start off with an easier topic. And it really doesn't matter where you start. Once the client starts improving certain aspects of his situation other things will start to improve too. The key thing is to let the client choose so that the conversation will constantly be about things that are relevant for him.

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