building a bridge between what you might call the better past and the better future. The previous two posts contain suggestions for how you, as a solution-focused coach, may help the client get a clear picture of both the better future and the better past. Once clear pictures have been developed of both the better future and the better past, solution-focused practitioners start to facilitate the process of building a bridge between the two. This means that the better past is used as a source of inspiration to choose small steps forward in the direction of the better future.
Usually, when clients have a clear sense of what they want to achieve (better future) and when they have already been able to achieve to some extent what they want (better past) it will be relatively easy for them to choose steps forward. Here are a few suggestions on how solution-focused coaches may facilitate this process.
Small steps: A first point to make is that solution-focused coaches Solution-focused practitioners generally focus on one small step forward instead of a big leap. Intuitively you may think that taking small steps may only be useful for situation in which you have small problems but this is not the case. On the contrary, when problems are large, taking small steps may be even more powerful. In fact, we believe they are often the only way to start tackling problems that nearly overwhelm us. Why is this so? This post explains small steps have the following advantages: Low threshold, low risk, positive message, positive snowball effects.
Usefulness questions: to help clients build the bridge between past success and future success we may use usefulness questions. These questions help the client to make explicit what was useful in the conversation and how the client might use this. With usefulness question it often works well to apply three steps: 1) the WHETHER question ("Has it been useful for you to talk about this?"), 2) the WHAT question ("What was useful for you?") and 3) the HOW question ("How is this useful for you in your current situation?)".
Client choice: Solution-focused coaches respect and strengthen the client 's sense of autonomy. This implies that clients are invited to choose their own steps forward. Therefore, we are reluctant to give any suggestions that are not rooted in what the client has told us. It is not a problem if the clients comes up with solutions we don't like or which differ from what we would suggest. Also, it is not necessarily a problem if the client does not have any ideas about steps forward yet. In this case you may give an observation suggestion. It's wise to remember that the meaningful change in the life of the client happens primarily between and after conversation with the solution-focused practitioner, not in the conversation. After the conversation, therefore, the client is likely to keep on thinking, experimenting, reflecting and learning.