July 24, 2010

What do you do, as a solution-focused practitioner, if the client explicitly asks for your opinion or advice?

Rodney Daut asked: "What do you do, as a solution-focused practitioner, if the client asks for your opinion or advice? Do you give the advice or do you do something else? If so, what do you do?".

Here are my thoughts on this. This may certainly happen from time to time. The dominant approach to coaching and therapy is still one in which clients tell about problems and coaches or therapists offer advice. Many clients are aware of this stereotypical image of the helping process and will therefore expect it. When clients do ask for advice there are a few easy things you can do as a solution-focused practitioner which will often be helpful. What we usually DON'T do is start to explain how we work ("I don't give any advice because I work solution-focused which means ... blabla).

"If you're looking for a unique solution, the last thing you should do is ask for a vote"

"Ask Volvo drivers for suggestions on how to improve the brand and they will tell you that they love its safety focus, but could you please improve its sex appeal; ask Audi drivers the same question and they will tell you the converse. Indeed, the problem with asking consumers what they want is not that not only will they ask for things they're not getting, but their request will usually be driven by what they see being offered by the competition. This is one of the (many problems) with market research. And so it is that we end up with a Volvo that runs like an Audi and an Audi that runs like a Volvo. There is a cost to differentiation. There is a price to be paid for excellence, in anything. A college that emphasizes great teaching isn't necessarily going to have the best research facilities. A tennis player with a great serve-and volley game isn't necessarily going to have the best ground strokes. Consumers don't always understand this. This is why, if you're looking for a compromise solution, the yes - take a poll, conduct some research, survey the people. But if you're looking for a unique solution, the last thing you should do is ask for a vote."

July 23, 2010

Can solution-focused practitioners be authentic?

I received a question about how authentic the solution-focused professional can be. The person who asked this said he thought the solution-focused approach is rather technical which stands in the way of being authentic. Recently I have written a post which tried to adress this topic. I'll repost it here.

How honest is it to assume the solution-focused posture?
Ten years ago, when learning the basics of the solution approach, I sometimes pondered on the question: how honest is it to assume the solution-focused posture? When I observed and read about solution-focused practitioners I noticed they never seemed to disagree with their clients and they complimented their clients quite frequently. I wondered how honest this was. It all seemed so positive, almost too good to be true. At first, I thought, this could not be very honest. After all, we can't always agree with everything a client says, can we? And we can't always appreciate everything every client does, can we? We must disagree sometimes, mustn’t we? And we must sometimes dislike something a client has done, mustn't we? If so, my reasoning was, is it not dishonest NOT to express these sentiments?

July 19, 2010

Anything that anyone does is an improvable skill

Every now and then, one of the coaches I train in the solution-focused approach, remarks something like: "Solution-focused coaching is great, but for me it is very hard because I am really an impatient person." Over the years, I have more and more come to the thought that we have to be careful of describing ourselves in these kinds of terms. Saying "I'm impatient" sounds like a mere description but it often also has the character of a declaration, as if your impatience defines you. It is like declaring this goal to be unattainable: "I am impatient, solution-focused coaching requires patience, therefore I won't be able to learn how to do it right."

July 10, 2010

Think of the future as an open question

An article at scientificamerican.com reports on a study which indicates that those with questioning minds are more intrinsically motivated to change. They are looking for a positive inspiration from within, rather than attempting to hold themselves to a rigid standard. Those asserting will lack this internal inspiration, which explains in part their weak commitment to future change. Put in terms of addiction recovery and self-improvement in general, those who are asserting their willpower were in effect closing their minds and narrowing their view of their future. Those who are questioning and wondering are open-minded—and therefore willing to see new possibilities for the days ahead. Read full text

July 6, 2010

How can we challenge people's beliefs in such a way that their need for autonomy, competence and relatedness are respected?

On facebook, some friends (thanks Kirsten, Todd, and Arezoe) and I reflected on the importance of truth. Iris Murdoch once said: "The great task in life is to find reality" and I like that quote. "Is it true?" often seems to me to be an underappreciated question. Attention for what is true is an important aspect of rationality. But there is more to rationality. As Keith Stanovich explains (here) rationality concerns two critical things: What is true and what to do. Epistemic rationality is about what is true and instrumental rationality is about what to do. I think that sometimes these things may compete with each other.

At the risk of simplyfying too much, instrumental rationality seems to be about doing what works and epistemic rationality is concerned with truth and refers to seeing reality for what it is. It seems to be a pitfall to overlook any of these two rationalities. Only focusing on what is true but forgetting to do what works may lead to your neglecting to do things that help you to survive and remain connected to other people (A). Only focusing on doing what works but neglecting the 'what is true' question may lead to you moving efficiently through a web of falsity distancing you more and more from reality (B).

July 5, 2010

Think back of a good conversation

Think back of a good conversation you had with someone -not too long ago- after which you could notice that the person you had been talking to was satisfied about that conversation. What was this person specifically satisfied about? What did you do to contribute to this?

July 2, 2010

Navigating through the complexity of life

"Life is going to be complex and the only way we're able navigate our way through it at all is by living as best we can and absorbing those experiences and somehow making intuitive responses in future situations that resemble them in some way."

~ Daniel Tammet, author of Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant

Daniel Tammet is high-functioning British autistic savant with Asperger's syndrome. His life story is interesting from a solution-focused perspective because it illustrates how people can free themselves from the cages which are their diagnostic labels. Like I said in this post: "Often, just the way we look at realities determines whether we view them as problems or not. Surely, people diagnosed can have difficulties with social situations and change. At the same time, they can also be exceptional in their cognitive styles and achievements. So, what do we do? View AS a disorder and 'treat' them or focus on helping them develop a situational arrangement that works for them? ".

Solution focused conversation with a University student

Gwenda Schlundt Bodien posted an example of a solution conversation between a solution-focused University coach and a student:

Hallo, welcome. It is good to see you.
Yes, I am quite curious; it’s nice that this is being offered.
That’s good to hear. Shall I tell you a bit about the reason why we offer you this appointment?
Yes, that’s OK.
This appointment is meant to look at how you are doing with your studies, now that you are on your way a few months. I am curious to hear your experiences over the last period of time, to look at your study results and to hear how you look at the next term. What would you like to talk about, so that this conversation is useful to you?
Eh..I have not prepared anything or something….so eh…
That’s fine, that’s not necessary. Maybe something will come up during our conversation that you would like to talk about. May I ask you….what is going well? What are you content with looking back on the previous few months? 
Content…eh…I am quite happy here. I like Groningen as a city, student life is fun…
Good, that’s good. What else is going well?

Read ful text here

Also read Past, present, future X negative, positive - Light hearted example of a solution-focused conversation

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