December 9, 2008

Aren't these questions too difficult?

On a solution-focused network site somebody asked me the following interesting question:

"Some of our participants who work in the social sector, regularly tell us 'these SF questions are too difficult for our clients and they ask us, how can we apply the SF approach with people who have limited mental (cognitive) abilities? My answer then is that you can take a SF attitude, use very simple or nonverbal language, make drawings, show objects etc.... I wonder: do you have more ideas about this? Have you trained people in actually doing this?"
Here is what I said:
"Thanks for your reply and question. I have often come across people asking whether certain SF techniques won't be too hard for children or for people with relatively low mental capacities. My own experience when working with these targets groups is that just about anything I normally do, also works with these groups. Sure, when talking to someone with limited verbal skills, a different conversation will emerge that when talking with a psychology professor. But although the conversation may go slower, and although the language used by the client may be simpler, this does not mean that the solution-focused questions are necessarily fundamentally different. I think they are largely the same. There is one point which may be important here. Sometimes your own belief that something may not work for a certain target group may be the actual spoiler. For instance when you think and eight-year old will not be able to answer the miracle question because it will be too difficult, there is chance that your own low expectation may become self-fulfilling. You may ask the question in a hesitant self-apologizing way, for instance, which may subtly be picked by your client. Again, my experience is, people of different abilities respond equally well to the basic solution-focused questions. I would encourage coaches to just try them. After all, no harm is done when a question turns out to be too hard. After that, the conversation will still continue and there will be ample opportunities to ask other questions that will work better."

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