April 27, 2012

Balancing Time Perspectives

In solution-focused conversations people's attention is subtly focused in the directions of 1) a positive future (through preferred future questions which help to develop clear pictures of how one hopes things will become), 2) positive aspects of the present (through platform questions which help get a a clear picture of what is already there and of what is working well), and 3) positive past (through exception seeking questions and past success questions which help get a clear picture of when things were already going well.

My Solution-Focused Fields of Attention framework which is used in this video shows how, often, during solution-focused conversations the focusof attention gradually and subtly shifts from talking negatively about past to talking positively about past, present, and future.

There is some new research which suggests to me that this process of going back and forth between past, present, and future in solution-focused conversations is actually a good idea. Ryan Howell and his colleagues have done a study which demonstrates that having a balanced time perspective can make people feel more vital, more grateful, and more satisfied with their lives. He says that we should not accentuate either one of the three perspectives (past, present, or future) but, instead, develop the cognitive flexibility to switch between those perspectives.

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