Solution Focus rather than Problem Focus

Solution Focus rather than Problem Focus

Whenever people face obstacles what do you think are their first thoughts that come to their minds?

  • There are just too many problems down here, can someone do something about it?
  • Not this again, its the 4th time that I had to deal with it
  • I don’t like this at all, how I wish that it will all go away.

When faced with multitudes of problems, do we just shrug and give up? Or are we going to do something about it? How many of us actually have colleagues who keep talking about problems more than solutions? Even if we help them come up with solutions, how do we actually help them to be more independent in solving their own problems. I mean, if they were the ones who come up with their own solutions, they are more likely to act on it and solve it. The question is “how do we make them more solution focused?” Better yet, is there a fast way to do it?

It is not as tough as it seems but allow me to share with you more about how to do it.

Let me introduce you to a technique that I have found useful in my work with people. It is called Solution Focused Brief Coaching (SFBC).

Solution Focused Brief Coaching is essentially a technique of coaching that is brief and focuses on helping the client be more solution focused. I use the word “client” because the official counseling term for it means a person is under our protection. Therefore a client could be your colleague in the workplace, your teenager at home, your spouse and so on. It does not focus the problems in detail but helps the client to be more solution focused by asking a set of questions that help them look for solutions.

Here are some core focuses:

  • Focus on the strengths, not weaknesses.
  • Focus on solutions, rather than problems.
  • Focus on competencies, rather than inadequacies.
  • Focus on “What can” rather than “What can’t” be done.

Why not focus on the problem on detail?

If we were to dwell too long in the problem stage, the client might get more and more depressed about a situation. This creates an unresourceful state that does not help in solving problems. There are many times when I have listened to people talk about their problems, and the problems all the sudden get bigger and bigger. It then becomes so big that some people just resign to their ‘fate’ and accept the problems to be part of their lives. Some people even moved on to complain about other problems related to the first incident and it snowballs in a downward spiral. In addition, talking about the problem too long will not help a person to ‘snap’ out of their depression, it just encourages them to stay focused as victims of society.

By helping a client be solution focused, we move them in a more resourceful state of thinking. They are able to explore opportunities or strategies that they might had used before to get results for themselves. The coaching process is also shorter because the ranting of problems is significantly reduced. In addition, the client’s confidence in solving a situation improves because they realise that they have more choices available to them. Lastly, they feel better themselves to be able to think of solutions to their problems, rather than allow others to suggest it for them. They will feel that they own the problem.

Here are some examples of questions that we can use to help a person to be more solution focused (this list below is not exhaustive)

  • What needs to happen today to make you feel that this coaching session is worthwhile?
  • What are the benefits of it?
  • What motivates you to do it?
  • What will people say when you do it?
  • How is that important to you?
  • Who encourages you the most during this process?
  • How do you think you can surround yourself with these people?
  • On a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being _____ and 10 being _______, where are you?
  • How can you move to the next level?
  • What can you do right now after this session?

When such questions are asked, the usual response is that the client usually finds the solutions for themselves and have a more actionable plan after the coaching. In most cases I have observed in one to one sharing, there is no clear follow up on what can be done and it renders the sharing time to be unproductive. I know that sometimes sharing something without a specific end in mind might be therapeutic to some, but if we really want to solve problems, we need to solution focused, or else we will revisit this problem again in the near future. By using the solution focused questions above, many clients of mine (some of them are also personal friends) have commented that they are able to come to solutions quickly and are excited to try them out.

Here are some problem talk questions that you should avoid:

  • What’s wrong with what you are doing?
  • What makes it hard?
  • How come you can’t seem to improve?
  • What do you dislike about it?
  • Who are the people who are not supportive of your goals?
  • What is your main cause of difficulty?
  • What makes you stuck?

The next time you speak to a person, are you asking the right questions to move a person from being focused on problems to more solution focused? I hope you will be more aware that the quality of your questions will determine the quality of response from your client. Do help them to be more solution focused in solving their own issues.