As I started a recent workshop on using a solution-focused to solve complex problems, I overheard one of the participants say, “I don’t understand how asking a question can solve a problem.” Generally, when I hear a comment like that, I would choose to talk to the person and explain to the group how questions do solve problems … But, that time, I decided to keep quiet and continue with the workshop.
When you are dealing with a team of people who work together or need support, feedback, or buy-in from someone else, there will be some tension or concern. This communication or need to work through change will place you into three areas:
- Active Resistance: the other person finds an obvious way not to be cooperative.
- Passive Resistance: the other person finds a less obvious way and may appear helpful, yet is still not being cooperative.
- Acceptance: the other person is OK with the change and supports the effort.
All three happen, and the person may resist your idea because it is a bad idea. When resistance or acceptance occurs, keep vigilant and be skeptical of your choices. Often our initial thought is not the best or the most resilient, and just because someone agrees does not mean that you are right.
How can questions solve problems?
Within a solution-focused we say that the question is the intervention and that my solution will not work for you; you need to develop what works best for you; this is how questions are helpful.
In working through complex or obvious problems having a good question process will break stuckness and increase your and other people’s acceptance of the progress steps. Often the approval rises because the steps are what is already working well, and through a discussion with the other person, progress clues are identified.
“You accept and put greater effort into ideas that you develop; even if that idea fails you will make an effort to improve or find a new way because it was your idea.
Other peoples ideas belong to the other person, and so does their failure or success.”
The Question is the Intervention with Complex Problems
The image above and the questions below exemplify how the SOLVEDmethod from the SOLVEDcards works. Try it, think about a challenge you are having, and do your best to respond to each question.
- Situation: When you are making progress, where is your energy going?
- Observation: What does progress look like in the next 10 minutes? 10 days? 10 years?
- Level: Think about your challenge as a balancing act. What is currently keeping your progress in balance? What would it look like when your progress is off balance?
- Validation: What have you accomplished that makes you proud?
- Exception: The solution is water, and the challenge is the pipe that water flows through. Describe the path of least resistance for the water.
- Decision and Direction: What did you experience or observe from today that you know will be helpful in the future?
As you think through your challenge and respond to the question you are determining:
- What is working that you can do more of?
- What is not working that you can do less of.
- How you created your current success and progress.
- What small next step you will make.
Through your skills and thinking, you can make progress on complex problems, and as you continue to use the SOLVEDcards, you will make more and more progress.