September 23, 2008

Non-confrontational influencing

In my latest Youtube video I mentioned Clayton Christensen saying:
"Never did success come through a head-on attack against the regulations and network effects that constituted the power of the status quo."
Christensen is specialized in the subject of disruptive innovation and perhaps he has never heard of the solution-focused approach. So why include him in a list of solution-focused quotations? Because his quote fits so well with the solution-focused approach. In the solution-focused approach can lead to fundamental shifts in thinking and doing but achieves this in a non-confrontational manner. Another person who has perhaps never heard of the solution-focused approach, philosopher Daniel Dennett, explains why:
"You seldom talk anybody out of a position by arguing directly with their premises and inferences."
A solution-focused coach does not confront his client and does not 'hold a mirror' in front of his client. Instead, he asks questions about what the client wants and what might help and works only with what the client says and believes. By asking these kinds of question he helps the client develop a more realistic, constructive and useful perspective. Sometimes solution-focused therapists and coaches get so enthusiastic about the approach that they want to start 'selling' it to their colleagues: "This is great, you should try this too". While this is usually well meant, the other person is often hearing a different message: "You way of working is wrong, you should work differently and I am going to tell you how!"
If you want to make the solution-focused approach available for other people you're advised to use a strategy that is congruent with the approach itself. In other words, don't sell it, be non-confrontational. Instead, be inviting and respectful. Leave people who are not yet interested alone and continue to do what works. Once they start showing interest, teach them. Insoo Kim Berg, in the early days, found out the hard way. She told me in my 2004 interview with her:
"I made the mistake of talking too much about what we were doing. That way it got too much attention. We should have just continued without talking much about it."

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