Trying to increase someone's self-compassion seems a wiser choice. Recently, Steve Safigan wrote a interesting article about this. According to self-compassion has three main components: self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. Research shows that increasing self-compassion is associated with many positive effects such as life-satisfaction, wisdom, optimism, curiosity, learning goals, social connectedness, personal responsibility, and emotional resilience but is not associated with the above-mentioned disadvantages of increasing self-esteem.
In solution-focused coaching and therapy there are several ways of supporting client's self-compassion. In the previous post I already mentioned normalizing. Rodney Daut said the following about this in a comment to the post: "that people are more compassionate with themselves and experience lower negative affect when they see that others have the same problems they have. The researchers call it percieving our common humanity. And it seems that's what you help clients do in SF". In addition to this, solution-focused practitioners attitude towards clients is one of acknowledgment and appreciation. They show understanding, acceptance and acknowledgement for whatever clients say, including what they say about their problems and their feelings about these problems. They don't confront or criticize clients but, instead, remain mild. All of this makes it easier for clients to approach themselves with compassion, too.
Not only does solution-focused change offer some good ways of supporting clients' self compassion, my subjective perception is also that, over the years, in solution-focused practice there has been a gradual shift from supporting self-esteem to supporting self-compassion. In the past, solution-focused practitioners tended to use more direct trait compliments ("you are such a smart person") whereas nowadays they tend to use indirect process compliments ("how did you manage to accomplish that difficult task?"). In the picture below the arrows marks this shift.
In light of the discussion of self-esteem versus self-compassion this seems like an important shift (so if this shift is not actually happening and a mere case of wishful thinking, I indeed argue it should happen). Direct and person-oriented compliments seem to create a higher risk of increased self-esteem including the negative behaviors associated with this. This post shows some empirical evidence for this claim. Indirect process compliments seem much safer in this sense. Furthermore they seem much more useful because they bring out description of what has worked well which may be used again.