Many clients have difficulty in letting go of their problem. It’s not surprising. They have lived with the problem for a while; the problem is giving them trouble and it’s worthy of respect. Yet the solution-focused practitioner pops up to say the problem may have nothing to do with the solution – and remind them that it’s the solution that the client wants. That may make sense logically, but from the client’s perspective that can be tough to accept emotionally.
There are many ways to do this, including a straight-forward asking of how the client would like things to be. If the client wants to state or re-state the problem at this point, that’s OK. The coach can acknowledge the problem and satisfy any emotional needs by expressing an empathy with how awful the problem must be – and then ask what the client wants instead of the problem or in place of the problem.
Of course they may think it’s necessary to analyse a problem in order to find a solution. But if offered a choice between a full analysis with no solution, or a solution with no analysis, only a fool (or an academic) would choose the former. So it simply remains for the desired state of affairs to be delivered. And when that’s in place, the problem has clearly vanished, whether it was analysed or not.
By switching the language from problem-solving to solutions-finding, we are onto a solutions track. Of course clients bring problems and tricky issues. Our job can be seen as how to format conversations in a world saturated with problem talk, which so often locks us into unhelpful descriptions of how things are and what we are doing.
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