December 30, 2011

Bètacoach: promising project to improve math education

Recently someone told me about a promising and innovative project (named Bètacoach) by Monique Pijls (photo) a Dutch math teacher and consultant. The project is aimed at improving math education (in The Netherlands, the exact subjects are sometimes called 'bèta subjects') . I find this project interesting because I think improving math education is important and because the project seems to have some solution-focused characteristics.

December 29, 2011

A few questions for the new year

  1. What went well in 2010? 
  2. What did you do that you are you proud of?  
  3. What would you like to be different? 
  4. How would you like next year to become? 
  5. What would you like to try differently? 
  6. How would you like your future to become?

December 27, 2011

When you become good at something

Often, when you become good at something, your 'reward' is that you're asked to do more of that activity so you'd better find interesting what you try to become good at.

December 26, 2011

Top 15 posts of 2011

As an end-of-year tradition here is a list of what I think are this year's best posts. This year I wrote fewer posts on this blog than in previous years. While, of course, I can't objectively say how interesting and useful this year's posts were, I can say that some of the posts I wrote this year belong to my favorite things I have ever written. I learned a lot thinking and writing about these topics and by reading your comments. I am glad that you, reader, appear to have found some of them useful and interesting, too. If you want to let me know what your favorite post was, that would be nice.

What I think were this year's best posts:

December 24, 2011

The map is not the territory

In my posts Objective reality as an asymptote and On truth: we can distinguish between false and falser (and discussions that followed those posts - mainly in my LinkedIn group) I shared my views on the difference between reality and our interpretation of it.

Summarizing my thinking about this: I argue against: 1) saying that reality does not exist, 2) saying that reality is unknowable to us, 3) saying that we should not bother trying to refine our understanding of reality, 4) saying that there is no sense in trying to distinguish between the validity of one truth claim and another, and 5) calling one's view on the world 'one's truth' (and therefore saying that everyone has his own truth and that everyone's truth is equally valid).

December 21, 2011

10 Tips to make your written communication more solution-focused

A manager asked me how solution-focused principles and techniques may be applied in e-mails and written proposals. An interesting and important question. Solution-focused practice is usually primarily associated with oral conversations but there is no reason why it could not be used in written communication as well. Here are some suggestions off-the-cuff to make your written communication a bit more solution-focused:
  1. Make it useful by asking in advance what the other person's expectations are from your text. It may sound counter-intuitive but you can just ask your clients what they would like your proposal to look like, how lengthy it should be, and what elements it should contain. 
  2. Make it simple: make your words, sentences and structure no more complicated than strictly necessary. Writing a simple text may seem easy but it usually isn't. It often requires more time and attention. But simple and clearly structured texts are more easily understood by readers and more pleasant to read. 

A tripartite taxonomy for teaching, measuring and conceptualising solutionfocused approaches to coaching

By Anthony M. Grant

Solution-focused approaches to facilitating purposeful positive change through methodologies such as coaching have great potential to contribute to the broader human change enterprise. To date there has been limited exposition of psychological theory within the solution-focused arena, and few attempts to articulate taxonomies specific to solution-focused research, teaching and practice, thus restricting the development and broader adoption of the solution-focused paradigm. Drawing on the established solution-focused literature, this paper seeks to address this issue by articulating a tripartite taxonomy for solution-focused coaching based on the framework underpinning the Solution-Focused Inventory. This model consists of three factors: (a) Goal-orientation; (b) Resource Activation; and (c) Problem Disengagement – subscales of the Solution- Focused Inventory. Implications of this taxonomy for teaching, research and practice are discussed and a range of future directions for research explored.

Source: The Coaching Psychologist Volume 7 No 2 December 2011, p98-106

December 16, 2011

Testing the Association between Solution-Focused Coaching and Client Perceived Coaching Outcomes

Visser, C.F. (2011). Testing the Association between Solution-Focused Coaching and Client Perceived Coaching Outcomes. InterAction 3 (2), 9-27

This paper describes a survey study into the association between SF behaviours of coaches and clients perceived coaching outcomes. A web-based survey was administered with 200 clients of coaches. The survey consisted of a list of 28 coach behaviours, 14 of which were SF behaviours and 14 of which were behaviours SF coaches would avoid. Clients were also asked to describe on several dimensions how effective the coaching had been. SF coach behaviours were strongly positively associated with positive coaching outcomes. Non-SF coach behaviours were moderately negatively associated with positive coaching outcomes. A multiple regression analysis was done, which gave insight into which specific coach behaviours were predictive of coaching success. The paper closes with some reflections on the implications of this study and with suggestions for followup research.

Read full article (draft)

December 15, 2011

Objective reality as an asymptote


To my post On truth: we can distinguish between false and falser, I received several responses. One response contained the following statement: "For what I understand of radical constructivism (thinking I am one), reality is not denied (this is another thing). It's just that "true reality" cannot be objectively known, for there's always a subject looking at it, either directly or through devices (scientific apparels). So, any view of reality is true in and for itself. Yet, that doesn't prevent people from talking about their differing views and coming to a consensus to what true reality (or reality "out there" as constructivists say) probably is. When everybody though Earth was flat, so it was. Yet, someday, someone experimented (and measured) that it was spherical. (personal) experience grounded that belief and we yet have to find someone who can prove that Earth is flat again (or cubic). So we trust that to such a high level that we relinquish doubt and consider that the earth reality out there is indeed spherical."

Here are my thoughts on this: I would not say "any view of reality is true in and for itself". I think any view may seem/feel true but this different (I think) from whether it actually is (or to which extent is actually is). In the same vein, instead of saying "When everybody thought Earth was flat, so it was.", I would say "Although everybody thought Earth was flat, it actually wasn't." Although it may have not mattered much to most people whether or not it was flat, and they may have treated the earth's supposed flatness as truth. This, however, did not reflect the reality of the shape of the earth which wasn't flat.

December 14, 2011

On diagnostics in personnel selection

David Creelman will soon publish an article on the use of diagnostics in personnel decisions. In it, he points at some problems with formal diagnostic tools. He argues that organizations should always use formal tools in combination with informal tools. I'll link to the article when it's online. Meanwhile, David asked me for my views on the use of diagnostics in personnel management and here is what I said:

On truth: we can distinguish between false and falser

Yesterday, I received an interesting reaction to my post Two dimensions of rationality: "Isn't SF based on constructivism? I may be too radical, but in this case that would mean that there's no such a thing as "what's true" (more precisely: what's true is unknowable for any kind of knowledge is constructed into one's own mind). So, it boils down to "what works" and "what you experienced as true" (meaning that someone else may have experienced something differently, being "true" on different points or even "false" from their point of view)."

My response is: "Thank you for your reaction. Yes, one of the main inspirations for the people who originally formulated SF was social constructivism / social constructionism, which were popular philosophical perspectives in those days. These knowledge theories consider how social phenomena or objects of consciousness develop in social contexts. Some people, inspired by these ideas think that objective reality is not knowable for us. Others have even said that objective reality does not exist. The latter people may say that there is not one truth but there are many truths or they may reject the whole notion of truth and reality.

December 13, 2011

Two dimensions of rationality

In his book What Intelligence Tests Miss: The Psychology of Rational Thought, Keith Stanovich explains how cognitive psychologists define rationality. They distinguish two basic forms of rationality: 1) instrumental rationality, behaving in such a way that you achieve what you want, and 2) epistemic rationality, taking care that your beliefs correspond with the actual structure of the world.

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. Two undesirable situations may happen:

A.    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. In extreme cases this may lead to a situation in which your questioning dominant false beliefs may threaten governing institutions so much that they may want to isolate you or worse (for example think of Copernicus and Socrates).
B.    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. In extreme cases it may lead to such pragmatism that individuals may gradually go along with and adapt to situations which systematically undermine human thriving of themselves or others (such as joining a religious sect). 

Thinking about this, I thought of visualizing this as follows:

December 5, 2011

Do recent publications prove Anders Ericsson and colleagues wrong about the importance of deliberate practice? No.

About deliberate practice
I have written much about deliberate practice. Researchers have demonstrated there is a lack of evidence for the claim that natural ability is the main factor behind top performance. They have found out that what is crucial instead is the amount of time the individual has practiced and the specific way in which he or she has practiced (read more about deliberate practice here and here). Recently, two articles were published on the relative importance of deliberate practice and 'talent' for achieving high levels of performance. First, there was Deliberate Practice Is Necessary but Not Sufficient to Explain Individual Differences in Piano Sight-Reading Skill by E. Meinz and D. Hambrick. Second, there was Deliberate Practice: Necessary But Not Sufficient by G. Campitelli and F. Gobet. Do these articles shed a new light on how important deliberate practice is? Do they call for a return to the idea that innate abilities are, in the end, more important? Did these authors prove Anders Ericsson et al. wrong? No. I'll explain why.

November 29, 2011

Focus on usefulness and progress in solution-focused organizational change

Evaluation of organizational change is important. Evaluation helps us to get an idea of how successful something has been, what went right and what went wrong which is essential to determine further steps. But, in practice, evaluation is often problematic in the sense that it lacks precision, overaccentuates numbers and/or financial outcomes, focuses too much on problem causes, and is not found useful both to the people who provided the information and those who gathered it. The solution-focused approach to organizational change which focuses closely on progress and usefulness, seems to work better.

November 27, 2011

Facilitating employee involvement and participation in solution-focused organizational change

In the solution-focused approach, employees are viewed as capable and responsible people who want to and are able to make sensible decisions. Therefore, a starting point in the solution-focused approach to organizational change is to share decision making whenever possible. A change process is likely to be more acceptable and attractive to employees when they notice that they can participate in the decision making about 1) what should be changed and what not, 2) the definition of how things should become (the preferred future), and 3) how the change is made, especially with respect to their own work context. When employees have a say in these things their sense of autonomy will be supported and they will feel more competent and more involved with and related to the organization and its goals.

November 24, 2011

The change sparsity principle in solution-focused organizational change

A solution-focused starting point in deliberate organizational change is to not change any faster or more than necessary. Often, when things are not going well, there is an understandable tendency to initiate drastic changes in organizations. But such an approach can lead to tensions and insecurities. When a "drastic change is needed" message is communicated in organizations employees may interpret them as "much of what you have done was not good enough". Because of this such messages may undermine employees' sense of autonomy and competence and demotivate them. Another potential risk of drastic change approaches is that they may also disturb or destroy practices or processes that were actually working well. Because of this, unexpected problems may emerge.

November 23, 2011

Combining results focus with sensitivity in organizational change

Change is more likely to succeed when a results focus is consistently combined with a sensitivity for the perspective of individuals. Acknowledging and utilizing the perspective of employees in organizational change can be beneficial in several ways:
  1. They are more likely to feel taken seriously and understood and will experience more safety to express their views and concerns.
  2. When you take the trouble to try to understand these views and concerns, the organizational change process may benefit from using and addressing them.

November 21, 2011

The Solution-Focused Fields of Attention Framework

In this video, I proposed a simple framework which helps to understand and to conduct solution conversations. I call this framework the solution-focused fields of attention framework. This is what it looks like.

November 18, 2011

5 types of homework suggestions for solution-focused career counselors

Career counselors use solution-focused principles and interventions more and more. Solution-focused career guidance is a bit different from traditional career guidance in several aspects. Firstly, many of the well-known solution-focused techniques are used, such as usefulness questions, scaling questions, desired situation questions, future projection questions, past success questions, and coping questions. Secondly, the solution-focused posture is used. This posture is not the posture of the expert who offers opinions and advice but a posture of not knowing. By exploring the perspective of clients and by asking focused questions clients are helped to discover how they can take steps forward. This posture of the solution-focused professional is sometimes called 'leading from behind'. Thirdly, solution-focused career counselors work from a different view on career development and -guidance than is traditionally the case. Simply put, traditionally, solution-focused career counselors work from a linear view in which successively is worked on these tasks: 1) analysis (of self and labor market), setting goals, 3) making a plan, 4) implementing the plan. The solution-focused approach uses a test-and-learn approach instead. This approach is not linear but circular and assumes that one primarily learns and grows by doing first and then analyzing (not the other way around). (more about this here).

Focusing on what works in organizational change

Doing what works, one of the core principles of solution-focused practice, can be very useful in organizational change. Briefly put, doing what works means that, when you try to accomplish something, you pay careful attention to what is working in the present, or has worked before in a more or less comparable situation, and do more of that. Four aspects may help to explain how the focus on what works can be applied:

November 17, 2011

Greatness and modesty

History has produced amazing examples of human achievement in science and art. You might think that if any people would deserve to speak of themselves immodestly. But it is striking how modest some of the very greatest geniuses of all time appear to have been. It is almost as if the following rule applies: the greater the genius, the more modest. I think Confucius said it right when he said: “A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.” Here are a few examples:

November 16, 2011

Supporting individual autonomy in organizational change

In organizational change it is wise to recognize that a basic need we all share with one another is the need for autonomy. We all prefer to choose for ourselves as much as possible what we initiate and we want to control as much as possible what we do and don't. When our need for autonomy is satisfied this can contribute importantly to the degree to which we are engaged in what we do, how well we learn, how creative we are, how well we adjust and even how mentally healthy we are.

November 15, 2011

The importance of communicating rationales in organizational change

One starting point in solution-focused change management is to clearly communicate the rationale behind the change goals. In the absence of a clear and positively formulated rationale for the desired change members of the organization may fail to understand why the change is needed and may lack motivation to put effort into the change. Change is credible and acceptable when careful attention is paid to explaining the reasons behind goals, rules and decisions preferably in terms of specific expected advantages.

November 14, 2011

How to establish congruence as an external solution-focused expert

Sometimes, when aspects of the solution-focused approach are implemented in organizations, external solution-focused experts are hired to help facilitate this process. For example, a management team may hire a solution-focused mediator to help them communicate in a more solution-focused way. Another example is a youth care organization wanting to implement signs of safety hires a solution-focused trainer-coach to help facilitate the implementation. A final example is a therapy institute which hires a solution-focused trainer to provide a solution-focused management training for all its managers.

Congruence between change content and change implementation approach

Solution-focused principles and techniques, which were mostly developed in the context of psychotherapy, are now beginning to gain popularity organizational change management. Techniques like scaling questions, the miracle question, the circle technique, interviewing for past successes, focusing on small steps forward and other techniques have been applied successfully by many change managers.

November 11, 2011

Applying solution-focused interventions in a fluent and natural way

Now and then participants in our training programs say things like: "I want to learn to be able to apply solution-focused interventions in a fluent and natural way." Usually they add things like: "I don't want my coaching to look mechanical", and "I don't want to have to think hard about what I say and ask. I just want it to come out easily and automatically."

November 8, 2011

Solution-focused approach improved matrimony happiness and marital adjustment

The effectiveness of group solution-focused approach instruction on happiness and marital adjustment of couples referred to family counseling centers in Boushehr 
By Ahramiyan Afshin*, Sodani Mansour, Hussein Pour Mohammad

The present research is accomplished in order to consider the effectiveness of group solution-focused approach instruction on happiness and marital adjustment in couples referred to family counseling centers in Boushehr. Solution-focused approach is a short term remedy which emphasizes on finding solutions through counselor's help. Research sample consist of twenty two couples whom were randomly assigned into control and experimental groups. Research tools included Oxford Happiness, reviewed questionnaire, and Marital Adjustment Test (MAT). The research plan was administrating pre/posttests on control and experimental groups, as well as a follow-up test. In order to analyze the collected data, descriptive statistical approaches, and reiterative measurement test were used. Data analysis showed that solution-focused approach has improved the matrimony happiness and marital adjustment significantly.

November 7, 2011

Focusing Flashlights on Different Corners

Progress-focused coaches help clients to become aware of what has worked for them before. It may seem a bit strange that clients need coaches to identify what has worked before. Couldn't they have done that themselves?  After all, the clients identify things they themselves have done well. Why could they not remember without the help of a coach?  In The invisibility of what works I explained that it is actually not abnormal to not always be aware of what has worked before.

November 4, 2011

Tiny task to unstuck yourself

Do you know the feeling of being stuck? Do you know that type situation in which you would like to do something interesting and useful but you just can't get started for lack of inspiration? Do you know that type of situation in which you urgently have to do something in order to meet a deadline but you can't get started and keep postponing it? In these situations we seem to be caught in a trap. We need to get started but the problem is we can't seem to get started.

October 23, 2011

Five macro-trends overarching all of human history

Many things in the world fluctuate continuously but some things seem to keep on changing in one direction over long stretches of time. There even seem to be a few developments which stretch out over all of human history. Here are a few examples:

1. Anthropocentrism declines: long ago people used to interpret nature in human-centric terms. We thought we were the center of all things. Natural phenomena like thunder, outburst of volcanos and floods, were thought to be signs from god(s) meant especially for us. We thought the world was directed by gods who resembled people in many ways. Step by step we started to find out more about nature and about ourselves. We discovered much about natural phenomena and found out they often had little, if anything, to do with us.We also discovered the vastness of the universe. We found out that the earth is a tiny planet which is not at the center of our solar system, that our solar system is not at the center of our galaxy, the Milky way, and that people are not separate from animals but, instead, that we are animals ourselves. (Viewing tips: 1) The Center of all Things, 2) The Known Universe).

October 18, 2011

How is the growth mindset relevant for you as a manager?

People who learn about the growth mindset (the belief in the mutability of human capabilities by effort and experience) sometimes ask me whether this isn't mainly relevant for raising and educating kids. They as me if the principles of the growth mindset are also relevant for adults. A question which is frequently asked in particular is whether it is relevant for managers.

October 16, 2011

Deliberate practice: crucial factor behind top performance

These last few decades, a sub discipline has evolved within psychology which has produced knowledge which has replaced the traditional view on how top performance is developed. Researchers working in this discipline, of who Anders Ericsson (photo) in the most prominent, have shown that there is a lack of evidence for the claim that natural ability is the main reason for top performance. They have found out that what is crucial is the amount of time the individual has practiced and the specific way in which he or she has practiced.

October 15, 2011

Globalization could benefit the entire world

"In principle, the new globalization can ultimately be beneficial for the entire world. [...] The high income countries, including the United States, Europe, and Japan, can also be winners. The newly emerging economies produce a wide variety of low-cost goods and services that we desire, and in turn we can export a wide variety of goods and services to the emerging economies. Sectors that have strong economies of scale will benefit for the expanded reach of the global market. [...]

One ought to seek good reasons for believing something

"One ought to seek good reasons for believing something. Faith, revelation, tradition, dogma, authority, the estatic glow of subjective certainty - all are recipes for error, and should be dismissed as sources of knowledge."

~ Steven Pinker in The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined

October 8, 2011

Finding the Plus Behind the Minus

I have argued that treating clients as cooperative, no matter how resistant they may appear, may be the quickest and most promising way to encourage further cooperation (read about that idea here). Sometimes it can be hard to, though. When someone says or does something which sounds or seems offensive or negative, it can be hard to not become defensive or negative oneself. What helps in such situations is to fall back on a deliberate strategy which I have dubbed "searching the plus behind the minus".

October 7, 2011

Organizational Change Exercise

One of the most practical theoretic frameworks on organizational change is the theory of planned behavior (Ajzen, 1991), briefly TPB. I mentioned an adjusted version of this framework by Reeve and Assor (2011) in this article: Developing a Growth Mindset - How individuals and organizations benefit from it. Here is a simple vizualisation of that framework:

October 5, 2011

Steven Pinker on the illusion of ever-present violence

"Violence has declined over long stretches of time, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in our species' existence. The decline, to be sure, has not been smooth; it has not brought violence down to zero; and it is not guaranteed to continue. But it is an unmistakable development, visible on scales from millennia to years, from the waging of wars to the spanking of children."

"The very idea [that violence has gone down] invites skepticism, incredulity, and sometimes anger. Perhaps the main cause of the illusion of ever-present violence springs from one of the forces that drove violence down in the first place."

October 2, 2011

What does it take to make educational videos work?

Derek Muller is the founder of an online video education project in Physics called Veritasium. In his PhD thesis “How to create films to teach science (specifically physics)” he wrote about whether or how students in science can actually learn something from educational videos. This video shows what he has learned: Khan Academy and the Effectiveness of Science Videos. He did an experiment in which he gave participants to the study a pretest, then showed them a video giving the correct information on the topics which were tested, and then tested them again. Surprisingly enough, although the participants found the videos clear, concise and easy to understand and were rather confident about having done the posttest better than the pretest ... they did not do better at all on the post test.

September 27, 2011

Hypothetical questions: when is it morally defensible to use them?

Hypothetical questions can manipulate us
We know that the way we phrase questions can have substantial effects on our opinions and behaviors, often without us being aware of it. An example of this phenomenon is the topic of an article by Sarah Moore, David Nealb, Gavan Fitzsimonsc, and Baba Shivd (2011) entitled Wolves in sheep’s clothing: How and when hypothetical questions influence behavior. In it they show that, under certain circumstances, responding to hypothetical questions can shape your future judgment and behavior. The authors say that hypothetical questions are essentially wolves in sheep's clothing because they may seem quite innocent but in the way they are phrased can influence us without us realizing it.

September 22, 2011

Lying - Is it desirable and possible to always tell the truth?

Sam Harris is becoming one of my favorite authors. He is the author of The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason and Letter to a Christian Nation both of which I did not read (but I bet I would like them) and The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values (which I did read and found very good). Also there are countless videos of talks and debates with Sam Harris on YouTube many of which I have seen and most of which I like. His new book (only on Kindle) is called Lying. It is a small book of only 26 pages with a surprising topic (I found).

Harris argues that we can improve our own lives and the world by never lying. Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist, American Museum of Natural History, recommends the book as follows: "In this brief but illuminating work, Sam Harris applies his characteristically calm and sensible logic to a subject that affects us all--the human capacity to lie. And by the book's end, Harris compels you to lead a better life because the benefits of telling the truth far outweigh the cost of lies--to yourself, to others, and to society."

Here are a few quotes from the book:

September 19, 2011

The Darwin Economy


Robert H. Frank, economist at Cornell University's and columnist in The New York Times has a new book entitled The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good. While several authors have written previously written about the importance of Darwin and the theory of evolution for economics this book , I think, digs deeper and reaches different conclusions. To be more specific, Michael Shermer, in The Mind of the Market: How Biology and Psychology Shape Our Economic Lives, views an evolutionary perspective as supportive of libertarianism, whereas Robert Frank offers sharp criticism on libertarianism. I think Robert Frank is right and Shermer is wrong.

Here is the Amazon.com description of The Darwin Economy:

September 14, 2011

Scientific fraud

Tilburg University in The Netherlands has suspended Diederik Stapel, a prominent social psychologist, over fabricating data in some of his published studies. According to Tilburg University Rector Philip Eijlander Stapel has admitted to using faked data. More details about this affair can be found here and here.

Recently, I wrote this post: Improving science. My aim was to explain that there is a difference between an idealized description of the scientific enterprise on the one hand and scientific practice on the other.

September 12, 2011

Step by step forward through the scaling question

Guest post by Mirjam Fortuin, Pluryn


In the first four weeks of Intensive Family Treatment, a lot of information is collected. The family worker makes an appointment with each family member individually and asks what his/her goals are. They will be asked what they want to achieve with the help of Intensive Family Treatment. These goals are put on paper so that all family members, at the end of the first four weeks, will have their own goals (maximum 8). These goals are then read out loud to each other. This is usually a great moment because families which often only interact negatively, find out that they actually all want the same. This often brings them closer together. When setting the goals, with each goal the scaling question is asked. On a scale of 1 to 10 where 1 is the situation where nothing has been achieved and 10 is what you want to achieve with Intensive Family Treatment (T = target), where are you now (S = start score)? What would one step further look like?

Solution-focused language matching

Language matching
Paul Watzlawick suggested that helping clients working with the concepts of the client is much more powerful than using professional jargon (in this book). When you, as a professional helper, replace a word of the client by a professional term this usually works contrarily because the client may feel corrected or misunderstood. In general, solution-focused practitioners preserve the key words of their clients, without re-interpreting or changing them. This process makes it easy for clients to feel taken seriously and understood which facilitates cooperation. Solution-focused practitioners use clients’ words both in summaries and in questions.

September 10, 2011

The Secret Life of Pronouns: What Our Words Say About Us (review)

Social psychologist James Pennebaker has written a new book entitled The Secret Life of Pronouns. The book is about a new branch of research called computational linguistics which basically is about counting the  frequency of words we use and discovering how differences in these frequencies correspond to all kinds of social and psychological phenomena. This research has revealed some very surprising  facts. As it turns out the precise words we use to communicate our messages reveal more about us than we you can imagine. Often, some of the most revealing words that we use are the shortest and most forgettable.

September 9, 2011

Redirect: terrific book about story-editing

I have finished reading Redirect: The Surprising New Science of Psychological Change by Timothy Wilson (who is also the author of the book Strangers to Ourselves: Discovering the Adaptive Unconscious). Wilson a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and has been a leading researcher in social psychology for many years. Among other things, he has done research on self-knowledge and affective forecasting.

The book Redirect is a very well written book about a concept called story-editing.

September 6, 2011

Do you think the word 'therapy' fits with the solution-focused approach?

In his book Words Were Originally Magic, Steve de Shazer quotes the following definition of the word 'therapeutic': serving to cure or heal; curative; concerned in discovering and applying remedies for diseases. That part of medical science which relates to the treatment and cure of diseases.

The word 'therapy' clearly refers to the medical context. In that sense it does not fit well with the solution-focused approach. Solution-focused helping does not follow a medical model in the way it views and aims to help clients. de Shazer clearly recognized this and said the following about the word 'therapy':

September 1, 2011

10 solution-focused lists

Lists. Some people love them, others hate them. Some have, ironically, even make a list of top 5 reasons why they don't like top 10 lists. But most top 10 lists for writing better blog posts, do suggest to use bullet point lists. Anyway, I have used them from time to time. Here I go again. It is a bullet list of bullet lists.
  1. 3 Tips for students of the solution-focused approach
  2. 4 Essential ingredients of solution-focused change

August 29, 2011

The silence which I look forward to

Guest post by Mirjam Fortuin, Pluryn

In my job I work a lot with parents of so-called "Multi-Problem" families. These parents have often undergone years of social aid and are therefore used to talk about the problems they have and what goes wrong in their lives. During the first meetings for Family Treatment parents often immediately begin to talk about what's wrong at home. We listen carefully to what they say because, of course, these problems must be taken seriously. These problems are usually the reason they came to us.

August 26, 2011

5 Metaphors of the solution-focused approach

Metaphors are literary figures of speech that use an image, story or tangible thing to represent a less tangible thing or some intangible quality or idea. Metaphors can help to facilitate the understanding of concepts by  relating them to more familiair concepts and images. The solution-focused literature has used several  metaphors, too. Here are five examples:
  1. Leading the client from one step behind (Cantwell and Holmes, 1994; De Jong and Berg, 2008) (more)

August 25, 2011

It is not true that businesses should always grow

There is an interesting little video by Edward Hess, Professor of Business Administration, Darden School of Business entitled Everything You Know About Growing Your Business Is Wrong. In it he argues that there is no evidence whatsoever for some dominant beliefs about growth in business.

Those unsubstantiated dominant beliefs are:

August 24, 2011

Question: how threatening can the solution-focused approach be?

Several years ago, I was talking to a psychotherapist living in a village who told me how she had been losing clients in her private psychotherapy practice. She said, with a facial expression which looked like she was tasting something disgusting: "There is a new therapist in our village who does brief therapy. Many clients seem to prefer that, nowadays. I think it is a shame that people believe that such brief and superficial approaches are enough to deal with mental problems."

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