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.
As the scientists explain much of what they do -apart from showing sleight of hand- is to direct the attention from their audience away from certain places and to other places. As is explained in the video, the mind is limited in the sense that it is unable to focus on multiple things at once. When you focus on one thing you suppress everything around you. The magician creates an area of attention much like a director of a movie focuses his camera on certain areas. As the video shows, the magician directs the attention of the audience to a certain spot which seems to be important but really isn't. Nothing important is happening there. At the same time, the attention is taken away from another spot which actually is important.Derren Brown, in his latest book, Confessions of a conjurer, explains this process using the following diagram:

This process of leading another person's attention is not something only magicians can do. Anyone interested in influencing other people can do it, like politicians, managers, salespeople, therapists and coaches, and so forth. These techniques may be used for good and for bad purposes. Magicians trying to entertain you would be an example of an ethical application, politicians or TV commentators trying to create fear by focusing on imaginary dangers would be an example of an unethical application.

Good solution-focused coaches and therapists are very skillful at directing the attention of the clients. From the beginning of a solution-focused conversation, the solution-focused professional starts directing the attention of the client to what is useful, what the client would like to achieve, to what has worked, and to what has already been achieved. The way this is done is very subtle. The client is never confronted. Instead, the solution-focused professional acknowledges everything the clients says and does and then subtly shifts the attention of the conversation to the areas mentioned above. You might say, solution-focused coaches manipulate clients in the direction of their own choice. Ain't that a good trick?


  1. It's not a trick. It is an ethical way of helping people to reconnect or in some case connect for the first time with their inner strengths and resources. Every health care professional manipulates. Think about it. I think it's great.

  2. Thanks for a great article and for linking to the video Coert,I loved it.
    I second David's comment 100% not a trick :) My byline = “Change your focus, change a life”


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