Here we look at Socrative Questioning Techniques to shake a problem loose.
So what’s the best way to uncover the answers a client needs to find resolution? And why do clients sometimes purposely thwart your attempts to help them? Wouldn’t it be useful to help them to find the key to discovering their answers that are locked inside their mind?
Unlocking the mind, removing those mental processes that block and limit us is what our techniques do. As a Practitioner, you may want to polish your skills using Socratic Questioning Techniques. Living around 2500 years ago, Socrates knew a thing or two about people. He realised that by telling people how they should behave and what actions they should take, that they would frequently do the opposite. Today we call that mis-matching and most of us have that inner resistance fighter who just wants to do it all by themselves; moreover, emotional problems are often highly resistant to logical solutions. Before the client has sought you out, they have already tried logical processing of their problem.
As a therapist, you can reframe the problem, and turning your reframes into questions can really pack a punch to the effectiveness of your words. This works especially well for clients with depression, low self-confidence and anxiety. Remember that when clients are depressed, have low self esteem or anxiety, their unconscious minds have chosen pieces of (highly filtered) ‘evidence’ to build up a problem, with a tough outer boundary around it. These questions poke holes in those arguments and so the problem starts to be broken down. You can also use these questions on yourself. In fact those people who avoid depression, low self confidence and anxiety are those who question themselves naturally. Taking yourself or others outside a narrow framework helps to loosen our grip on a problem significantly.
Socrates observed that some answers were there already in people’s thoughts. Rather than imposing your knowledge on them, you could elicit their own solution from them, which is far more empowering for the client. Here are the formats of some Socratic question types. (For those of you who are Practitioners, notice the use of modal operators of possibility, rather than those of necessity. For those of you who are Master Practitioners, notice the close relationships with Quantum Linguistics and Sleight of Mouth, which help us to pose more superb Socrative questions!):
- Does your idea occur in all contexts? Are there times when this does not occur? These questions challenge their model of the world. When people are depressed or anxious, their model of the world can be full of extremes of black and white.
- Does everyone who thinks X behave Y?
- Are there people who think X and don’t behave Y?
- Are there people who don’t think X, but behave Y?
- g. Is everyone a failure if they’ve lost their job?
- Aren’t there people who lost their job and it’s been a new beginning?
- Are there people who have kept their jobs but could be considered failure?
- Are there people who are liked generally, but not liked by everyone? Would you want to be liked by everyone? Everyone??! Would such a person be likeable themselves?
- Is it possible that ………?
- Is it possible for a really intelligent person to make mistakes?
- Is it possible that people can believe that they are worth very little and yet others think highly of them?
- Is it possible that your seemingly very small acts of kindness are received with joy by the recipient?
- Is it possible that the best way to help someone is to not help them?
- Is it possible that a wealthy person could be very unhappy?
- Are they people who have had abusive childhoods and yet flourish as adults?
- Is it possible that you acted the best you could, given what you knew at the time?
- Are there any other reasons for….?
- Are there any other reasons why your friend doesn’t reply to texts straight away? What are the reasons your friend would text back straight away
- Are there any other reasons why your friends don’t want to see you during the week?
- Are there any other reasons they posted that on Facebook?
To break through this boundary, it may be worth asking them for the ‘evidence’.
- What evidence do have for that?
- What evidence do you have that your mother didn’t love you? Did she tell you that? Did she not tell you that?
- What evidence is there that everyone thinks your bad at your job? Who has said that to you?
Take care with this question set, as what the client is telling you could be completely true! The purpose it serves is to bring out the sweeping global statements, the generalisations and distortions.
Use these questioning techiques to enable your client to examine their own model of the world and begin to loosen their thoughts on their perception of reality. Use them in every day life to enable someone to discover their options. Use them on yourself too and interrupt any negative thought patterns. It’s so much more liberating to find that answer via a question, rather than to have a statement dumped on you!
Let me know how you get on!
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