March 28, 2010

Can you offer solution-focused help to friends and family?

I got this question about my post from a few days ago: "what do you think about using those three steps with a friend or family member who is having trouble?" Here are my thoughts on this issue.

In itself these solution-focused steps are likely to work too when talking with a friend or family member. But there is one thing which I advise you to be careful about when helping a friend or relative. Sometimes when you use these types of techniques with friends or family they may hold back or object. This may have to do with them having some trouble with you changing your role from a friendship role to a (sort of) professional role. This perceived change of role may confuse them or even irritate them. They may feel that this would suddenly make the relationship unequal. My suggestion would be to be careful when providing professional help to close ones by explicitly checking if they want help and if they want you to help them. When the answer is 'no' it's probably best to accept it.


  1. Thanks for answering my question Coert.


  2. I agree that offering SF help among friends needs to be done very carefully. Here’s where I go with it:

    If you jointly initiate the offer/request for help, it should be only around business / professional issues, e.g., helping with a career issue.

    If they solely initiate the request, it should only be around what I call ‘family organization’ issues, e.g., a friend and his spouse-to-be asked for help. We worked on their future marital home in areas such as; location, how many of their late-teens children would stay there, etc.

    On one occasion a friend asked for very personal advice. The friend initiated the specific request. I gave this person a blend of practical advice along the lines of mentoring/coaching, plus used a number of SF questions in order that the ideas that came up were more of their own making.

    In all cases, I kept asking, ‘How can this be useful to you?’ in order to try to make sure I was within the boundaries of what they wanted.

    Finally, I never got involved in any of the ideas / actions they decide they will take. I do not offer any more help. Hopefully, they don’t need it anyway.

  3. Thanks Alan,
    I think both keeping on checking the usefulness and not offering further help are wise and powerful.


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