October 31, 2010

Solution-focused coaches manipulate clients in the direction of their own choice by subtly directing their attention

Did you like the video I posted on magician and pickpocket Apollo Robbins? It's good entertainment, isn't it? But that is not the only reason I find it interesting. As the scientists in the video explain neuroscience can learn a lot from magicians about the workings of the nervous system. Good magicians, like Apollo Robbins and Derren Brown, are masters of manipulating the nervous system to create the illusion of magic.

October 27, 2010

Encouraging self-compassion in solution-focused coaching

Trying to boost someone's self-esteem can be rather unwise. In an earlier post I have explained that the idea that we first have to feel good about ourselves before we can function well is wrong. Trying to improve people's functioning by praising them abundantly in order to make them feel good about themselves does not work. In fact, trying to boost someone's self esteem is likely to encourage an unrealistically positive self-perception, a lack of concern for others, a tendency to dismiss negative feedback, trivialize one's own failures, take less accountability for one's own harmful actions, and agressiveness.

October 26, 2010

Losing the surplus problem

My view is that problems and tensions are an inevitable part of life. A life of constant comfort, completely free of fear, dissatisfaction and frustration is, I am convinced, an illusion. Why this is so? Well, the complexity of life brings with it unpredictability and lack of clarity. It is inevitable that we will be confronted with conflicting demands, adversity and opposition to what we try to accomplish. Also, the complexity within us brings with it that we will have contrary impulses and doubts.

Solution-Focused Interaction Grid

October 24, 2010

Creating impact as an educator requires facts and sensitivity

"Being an educator is not only getting the truth right but there has got to be an act of persuasion in there is as well. Persuasion is not always "Here’s the facts, you’re either an idiot or your not!". It’s "Here are the facts and here is a sensitivity to your state of mind. And it’s the facts plus the sensitivity, when convolved together, which creates impact."

~Neil deGrasse Tyson (source - 1:08-1:32)

October 23, 2010

People whose confidence in closely held beliefs gets undermined may become stronger advocates of those beliefs

When in Doubt, Shout! Paradoxical Influences of Doubt on Proselytizing
by David Gal and Derek D. Rucker

A seminal case study by Festinger found, paradoxically, that evidence that disconfirmed religious beliefs increased individuals’ tendency to proselytize to others. Although this finding is renowned, surprisingly, it has never been subjected to experimental scrutiny and is open to multiple interpretations. We examined a general form of the question first posed by Festinger, namely, how does shaken confidence influence advocacy? Across three experiments, people whose confidence in closely held beliefs was undermined engaged in more advocacy of their beliefs (as measured by both advocacy effort and intention to advocate) than did people whose confidence was not undermined. The effect was attenuated when individuals affirmed their beliefs, and was moderated by both importance of the belief and open-mindedness of a message recipient. These findings not only have implications for the results of Festinger’s seminal study, but also offer new insights into people’s motives for advocating their beliefs.


October 19, 2010

My 21 videos on the solution-focused approach

Teaching solution-focused skills to elementary school children

Every now and then people say things to me like: "They really should teach elementary school children solution-focused skills!" I like the idea and I know, here and there around the world, there already  are some examples of how children of this age (5-11) have been taught some of the solution-focused techniques and principles. I am curious about what you think and what you know about this and I have three questions:
  1. Do you think it would be a good idea to teach elementary school children solution-focused skills?
  2. If no, why not? If yes, what are some of your ideas about how this could be done effectively? 
  3. Do you know of any examples of how this has already been done? (If yes, tell us about it)

October 18, 2010

A belief in willpower as a non-limited resource makes people stronger in their ability to work through challenges

Ego Depletion—Is It All in Your Head? Implicit Theories About Willpower Affect Self-Regulation

by Veronika Job, Carol S. Dweck and Gregory M. Walton

Much recent research suggests that willpower—the capacity to exert self-control—is a limited resource that is depleted after exertion. We propose that whether depletion takes place or not depends on a person’s belief about whether willpower is a limited resource. Study 1 found that individual differences in lay theories about willpower moderate ego-depletion effects: People who viewed the capacity for self-control as not limited did not show diminished self-control after a depleting experience. Study 2 replicated the effect, manipulating lay theories about willpower. Study 3 addressed questions about the mechanism underlying the effect. Study 4, a longitudinal field study, found that theories about willpower predict change in eating behavior, procrastination, and self-regulated goal striving in depleting circumstances. Taken together, the findings suggest that reduced self-control after a depleting task or during demanding periods may reflect people’s beliefs about the availability of willpower rather than true resource depletion.

Conclusion: A belief in willpower as a non-limited resource makes people stronger in their ability to work through challenges


October 17, 2010

Science should become less reluctant to answer questions about morality

The dominant view among both scientists and laymen is that science can say useful things about the workings of the physical universe and about the invention and refinement of technology but nothing about what is morally true and about how we can best lead our lives. Sam Harris has written a book, The Moral Landscape, in which he challenges this view saying that science's reluctance to take a stand on moral issues has come at a price which is that science seems to have divorced itself from the questions which are most important for people's daily lives.


May there be levels of thriving which none of us have yet reached and ways of thriving which none of us have yet discovered?

October 16, 2010

Is it okay?

Is it okay to complain about complaining? To be intolerant about intolerance? To stop violence violently? To criticize criticism?

October 14, 2010

Post #1000

Here we are at post 1000!

In 2005, I first heard about blogging and I remember I did not really understand what it was. They explained it was something like an online diary and quickly decided it was nothing for me. In 2006, a few people suggested to me to start blogging about the solution-focused approach. Although this surely sounded a lot better than 'online diary' I replied that I really could not see myself writing something on a nearly daily basis. Where on earth would I get ideas to write about so frequently? But after turning the idea down, I kept thinking about it and decided to try it out anyway so that I could better judge whether it would be something for me or not. I started a Dutch blog and several months later I started this blog, in February 2007 and decided to see where it would go.

6 critical reflections on the importance of doing what works

Doing what works is one of the core principles of solution-focused practice. Doing what works means that when you try to accomplish something you pay careful attention to what is working, or has worked before in a comparable situation, and do more of that. Another aspect of doing what works which most solution-focused practitioners adhere to is 'If it ain't broken, don't fix it' which means something like, 'If something seems to be working well enough, there is no need to change it.'

I am generally a fan of the principle doing what works (the title of my first book was even Doen wat werkt, which means -you guessed right-  doing what works). But because I believe in the value of critically examining and challenging your own views and practices I'd like to reflect critically on the importance of doing what works and to think about some objections, complications and limitations. Here are six:

October 12, 2010

Who Confronts Prejudice? The Role of Implicit Theories in the Motivation to Confront Prejudice

Aneeta Rattan and Carol S. Dweck

Despite the possible costs, confronting prejudice can have important benefits, ranging from the well-being of the target of prejudice to social change. What, then, motivates targets of prejudice to confront people who express explicit bias? In three studies, we tested the hypothesis that targets who hold an incremental theory of personality (i.e., the belief that people can change) are more likely to confront prejudice than targets who hold an entity theory of personality (i.e., the belief that people have fixed traits). In Study 1, targets’ beliefs about the malleability of personality predicted whether they spontaneously confronted an individual who expressed bias. In Study 2, targets who held more of an incremental theory reported that they would be more likely to confront prejudice and less likely to withdraw from future interactions with an individual who expressed prejudice. In Study 3, we manipulated implicit theories and replicated these findings. By highlighting the central role that implicit theories of personality play in targets’ motivation to confront prejudice, this research has important implications for intergroup relations and social change. Source

October 11, 2010

Top 40 posts on Solution-Focused Change

We are approaching the 1000th post on this blog (this is post 997 - I miscounted yesterday) so maybe it is nice to step back for a moment and have a look at the posts. So that is what I did. I took some time to look over all the posts on the site and selected a few which I like best. Below is that list (in semi-random order):

Forget about automaticity (and other tips on forming good habits)

A few days ago, Peter Damoc commented on my post about Building healthy and productive habits. He mentioned how hard it is to form good habits and and asked me for some additional insights. This is what I said:

"Thanks for your interesting comment. I sympathize. I have found it hard to form good habits, too. Reading about this research does help me understand a bit better and I think brings it a little more under my control. Here are some thoughts:
  1. It may take longer than you think: 66 days seems to be an average but for some people it takes a lot longer. I think I have often stopped too soon to reach automaticity.
  2. It depends on the behavior. Gym and meditation certainly seem to qualify as complex behaviors, so I think you should expect automaticity to take long.

October 6, 2010

Judgmental and confrontational style of communication style of doctors seems to work counterproductive

On this site I found a summary of research on the effects of doctor's communication styles:

"Researchers found that three months after a visit to the doctor, those patients whose doctors talked about diet and weight loss in a more motivational fashion using predominantly reflective or empathic statements — were much more likely to lose weight, compared to those whose physicians used a more judgmental or confrontational style of communication. Patients whose physicians communicated well lost about 3.5 pounds three months after the visit, which is substantial given most overweight and obese patients gain weight over time. Read the full article."

Interesting. A judgmental and confrontational style of communication style of doctors seems to work counterproductive.

Building healthy and productive habits - how do you reach maximum automaticity?

Research Digest Blog has an interesting post on How to form a habit which describes research by Phillippa Lally and colleagues. Habits can be defined as those behaviors that have become automatic, triggered by a cue in the environment rather than by conscious will. Building healthy and productive habits is, of course, very useful but little systematic research into habit building has been done. Lally's research in which she asked participants to adopt a new health-related behavior suggests some interesting things:
  1. 66 days needed on average: The average time to reach maximum automaticity was 66 days.
  2. It varies per person, though: The time it took to build maximum automaticity varied greatly between participants from 18 days to a predicted 254 days. This is much longer than most previous estimates of the time taken to acquire a new habit. 

October 5, 2010

The BRIEFER project - capturing the solution-focused process in an expert system

One of the interesting projects that was done by the pioneers of the solution-focused approach was the BRIEFER project which tried to formalize the therapy process and capture it in an expert system. In the interview I recently did with Wally Gingerich, he tells about how he looks back on BRIEFER and about what it was about and what it amounted to.

"I had been interested in expert systems for some time, and Steve was also interested in computers, so we hit on this idea of developing an expert system that would serve the advising function of the team behind the mirror. The therapist would conduct the first part of the session, then come behind the mirror and ask the computer what kind of task to give the client. The computer would ask questions about what happened in the session and the therapist would answer. After about half a dozen interactions the computer would make its recommendation and the therapist would go back into the room and give the task. This is a simplified version, of course, but that was the idea.

October 4, 2010

Creating value with people

Creating value with people seems to require 2 things:
  1. a focus on what you want to achieve, 
  2. subtle and respectful communication

Wisdom is keeping a balance between knowing and doubting

What is wisdom? In a book chapter on wisdom, organizational scholar Karl Weick builds on age-old wisdom by philosophers like Confucius who said: "To know that one knows what one knows, and to know that one doesn't know what one doesn't know, there lies true wisdom".

Weick quotes J. Meacham (1990) who wrote: "The essence of wisdom ... lies not in what is known but rather in the manner in which that knowledge is held and in how that knowledge is put to use. To be wise is not to know particular facts but to know without excessive confidence or excessive cautiousness. To both accumulate knowledge while remaining suspicious of it, and recognizing that much remains unknown, is to be wise."

October 1, 2010

For that, you have to be Superman!

Jan Kuipers told me a nice example of a solution-focused conversation he had had with a young school child. Paul is boy who has driven his teacher to despair by pushing all the light buttons every time he walks out of the class room. The teacher has told him time and again not to do that, but he just keeps on doing it, claiming he can not leave it.

Jan met Paul and asked him whether he had an idea about how he could walk out of the classroom without pushing the buttons. Paul thought for a second and answered: "That is so hard, for that, you have to be Superman!" Jan smiled and thought for a second. Then he asked: “Oh, is that right, can Superman do it? Can you show me how he does that?" Paul answered: “I can't, for that I need to have Superman with me!" "Aha, I understand”, Jan said, "and do you have Superman?” “Yes, I do!” said Paul enthusiastically, “Shall I get him?” “Ok, do it”, Jan said and Paul ran out of the classroom.

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