While goals of the client are always important, of course, the reason for the solution-focused conversation can also be an 'external' one. Here, I'll go into two types of external reasons.
Clients may be mandated to have a conversation with a therapist or a coach. A first example is when a convicted domestic violence offender has to participate in a solution-focused treatment program (more about this here). A second example is a client who is sent to a coach by his manager because his manager thinks this is necessary. A third example is a child who is sent to a solution-focused coach by his mother because the mother things the child is experiencing (or causing) problems. In all of these cases the initiative did not lie with the person whom with the solution-focused professional has the conversation with but with someone else. In those cases there are external goals, requirements or expectations which play a role in the conversation. Here are some examples of questions solution-focused professionals might use in such cases:
- Whose idea was it that you'd have this conversation with me?
- What do you think is the reason you are here?
- What is the reason .... thinks you should come here?
- What does ... think you should do differently?
- What does ... think the outcome of this conversation should be?
- How would ... notice our conversation will have been useful?
- What does ... think you should do to convince him that you won't have to come here any more?
- How would you know that you would have done enough?
My colleague Gwenda Schlundt Bodien and I have also trained many managers to use SF techniques in conversations with employees, both in situations in which they help employees and in situations in which they have to make performance expectations and limits clear. All this is done in a solution-focused manner. Solution-focused directing happens when one person is mandate to require a certain kind of performance from one or more other people. Examples are a manager in an organization who is mandated to expect a certain performance of employees, a school teacher who expects a certain performance of pupils and a customer who expects a certain performance of suppliers of goods and services. Solution-focused directing as we have defined it is characterized by the following things:
- The process of providing direction is primarily done by asking specific types of questions (instead of commands)
- These questions explicitly specify WHAT is expected and WHY that is expected (the rationale) and invite the other person to determine HOW he or she may achieve that (which helps to support the need for autonomy and competence of the other person).
- The perspective of the person who is directed is acknowledged and worked with
- During the conversation clarity is constantly combined with a friendly, understanding and appreciative attitude. An authoritative tone of voice is avoided.