Our opening words inevitably contain assumptions, destiny-filled assumptions which can shape the rest of the conversation.
What if we start with ’What’s the problem?'. That assumes a problem, which we’ll now have to talk about and then try to solve.
Bulgarian solution-focused practitioner Plamen Panayotov proposes, ‘What question brought you here today?’
In many forms of coaching and therapy, the practitioner has a plan. The course of the conversation depends relatively little on what the client wants. That makes it predictable and thus easy for the coach. But is the comfort of the coach or the therapist (rather than the client) the goal of the session?
In SF coaching sessions, we start by asking what the client wants. That’s the plan, and that’s as far as the plan goes. The rest depends upon the answer you get and whatever is needed to get a more detailed description of what’s wanted, descriptions of resources and descriptions of progress.
And the value of that? These questions will produce change. And they will keep you as the coach in the moment and on your toes.
Another is to start with highlights from the past - proud achievements, better periods in their life or their work - to get a sense of what’s important to them, their talents and their experiences.
Then, when the time is right, you can have a more informed conversation about what’s wanted in the future.
The activity ran smoothly and the participants raced back to their chairs to make notes. ‘What were those questions we just asked?’, they demanded. ‘What do you remember them to be?’, I parried - still in facilitator mode.
It so happened that my questions were all flavoured with a solutions focus. That’s because SF is the way that I think, even though in terms of the format we were learning the wording of the questions was irrelevant...