Solutions Based Thinking

Make a turnaround, make a miracle happen…

In this blog post: How you can change a negative situation or relationship….and how you can focus on the goal instead of the obstacle….and working with the emotional and logical parts inside You…..

I am reading the book “Switch” by Chip and Dan Heath. I recommend that you read it.

Switch: How to Change Things When Change Is Hard

It discusses a number of great ideas related to change, changing habits, planning and how we humans approach life, and how we can make changes better – both personally and at an organizational level.

In their own words the Heath brothers summarize the book as such: “It puzzled us–why do some huge changes, like marriage, come joyously, while some trivial changes, like submitting an expense report on time, meet fierce resistance?

We found the answer in the research of some brilliant psychologists who’d discovered that people have two separate “systems” in their brains—a rational system and an emotional system. The rational system is a thoughtful, logical planner. The emotional system is, well, emotional—and impulsive and instinctual. When these two systems are in alignment, change can come quickly and easily (as when a dreamy-eyed couple gets married). When they’re not, change can be grueling (as anyone who has struggled with a diet can attest).

In those situations where change is hard, is it possible to align the two systems? Is it possible to overcome our internal “schizophrenia” about change? We believe it is.

SOLUTIONS BASED THERAPY: Therapy is often a good thing for us humans. Since you and I are human, let’s talk about that. We go in and talk, bring out our ‘issues’ and get things off our chest. Therapy helps many, many people.

The book discusses how traditional therapy is different from solutions based therapy. In traditional therapy we dig into our past, look at our childhood and dig out all the reasons why we are the way we are. The book suggests, partially in jest, that “after $50,000 and years of therapy you can now blame your mother.” This is not to say traditional therapy doesn’t work, it often does.

However, my discussion today is focused on the other type – solutions based therapy. These types of therapists don’t typically dig into your past. They don’t find out if your dad didn’t hug you enough or if you were scared of bats.

Solutions based therapy does what it says, they provide you a solution. If you’ve got a problem, let’s work on a solution, right now. OK, go do it.

Example: A married couple is angry, tense, and having issues. They aren’t getting along well. They are arguing a lot, not intimate nearly as much as they want to be, they are unhappy and there is a daily struggle. The tension and arguing are affecting the kids and both spouses are feeling it.

So a solutions based therapist doesn’t go to the wife and see if she has ‘daddy issues’ nor would the therapist do the same for the husband.

They simply go and ask one great question to each of the spouses , and I paraphrase,

“Imagine that you went to sleep tonight and there was some kind of miracle that happened while you slept. When you woke up, what’s the first small sign you’d see that would make you think, ‘Well, something must have happened – the problem is gone?’!?’

Typically then the spouse would respond by saying that they’d feel happy, at ease, and that they’d be more pleasant to the other spouse, more relaxed. The therapist also asks questions like “What would you want to see instead?” It is key to find a replacement behavior and/or habit for anything negative. It is much harder to say not to do “that” – it is easier to say to do something else instead.

Often the spouse responds by saying something like their mate would be listening after they woke up. The therapist would continue “How could you tell that your spouse was listening?” It asks them to identify the results what they want, expectations are clearer, clarity helps all parties. There is then an end result in mind.

The miracle itself is irrelevant and not discussed.

There are other examples of how similar questions were used with a ‘troubled student’ and organizations, too. This methodology could be used for someone with a drinking problem….almost any concern. “If a miracle solved your drinking problem, what would you be doing different the next morning? – What’s the first small sign that made you realize that your problem was gone?”

This is a wonderful approach not only to therapy but to our daily lives. Ask a better question, find a solution and take action. Some people think this is too simple. After the above exercise and questions are asked, the authors suggest a second pivot question: “When was the last time that you saw even a little bit of the miracle, even just for a short time?” Then you replay the scene when things were working for you. What was happening? How did you behave? Were you smiling? How did you feel?

Solutions based therapists “learn to focus their patients on the first hints of the miracle…Pretty cool, right?

What if you wrote this type of open ended question down and carried it with you each day?

What if you tried to apply it to your daily life – your relationships? Career? Health?

It gets you focusing on the ‘good stuff’ instead of what isn’t working. It gets you looking at how we can improve things, how we can solve a problem, rather than just talk about it and think about it (even more).

There are many great things in the book Switch but I think this chapter is very valuable. I may riff about other parts but this one is worth being a solo post.

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