Probably the two single statements every leader, counselor or psychotherapist hates most are the ones below. Team members often say them, clients and patients say them all the time. Most of our problems arise either when we don’t know or when we can’t. And an untrained individual is usually blocked by these statements. Fortunately, there are some techniques used in both hypnosis and NLP that are extremely useful to keep the flow of dialogue going. They involve de-focusing and changing the rigid initial point of view. And all this is possible because humans speak; language can be both a blocking and a freeing tool, a magical instrument that can change our reality.
There are two points of view employed here: a psychodynamic (psychoanalytical) view – there isn’t “I can’t”, but rather “I don’t want to” or “I must not”, both stated at an unconscious level that is expressed outwardly as an inability – and a more superficial view – we can’t access in us the resources we need to solve a problem. The first viewpoint explains the reason for which the common reaction “Why you can’t?” doesn’t work: if the individual would know why, there wouldn’t be a problem, but since the reason is unconscious, and therefore hidden from his conscious mind, the question “Why?” is useless. In psychotherapy, the strategy is to become aware of the unconscious reason, to bring to light what is hidden. And this takes time. A faster way is to reframe, to ask different questions, hoping that the blocked person will come out of her impasse. This works most of the time.
So, here are some unlocking questions:
– I don’t know.
– I can’t do that.
– What do you think it might be the answer? (relaxing)
– If someone else would have the same problem, what do you think he would do? (externalization)
– What prevents you from doing that? (clarifying)
– From where do you know you can’t? (clarifying)
– Who tells you that you can’t? (clarifying)
– What is that thing in you that tells you that you can’t? (clarifying)
– What would happen if you’d do that? (highlighting inner scenario)
– How can you find out? (focusing on the process)
– Guess! (creativity)
– Give it a try! What would be the solution? Make it up! (creativity)
– Well… if you’d know it… what would be the solution? (hypnotic suggestion)
– If you would know how to do it, what would you do? (hypnotic suggestion)
– What would your father/mother/loved one/friend/colleague do in your situation? (models)
– Do you know someone who would know how to manage this situation? (models)
– What would your favorite movie hero do in this situation? (models)
– What you did in the past in a similar situation? (use previous experience)
– If you were to live the last day of your life… looking back… what would you have done? (existentialist approach)
Here are some quick reminders you might find useful:
You fail because…
1. you leave unfinished stuff
2. you deny stuff that you should face
3. you don’t assume responsibility
4. you didn’t emotionally process stuff that happened to you
5. you didn’t apologize for the stuff you did.
You get blocked because…
1. You don’t want to lose what you’ve already invested (time, money, effort).
2. You fantasize about utopian dreams (run away in an exotic country or winning the lottery)
3. You think that longer work hours will get you promoted (this is not guaranteed and in the meantime you may get burned out)
4. You think that small positive cues in a general negative situation may signal that things will improve (evaluate whether things are actually improving overall, as they may not).
Strategies to get you moving again…
1. What could you do better so that you can get in a better situation? (upward counterfactual thinking) What was the weakness that made you fail? Allow yourself to genuinely regret that you are where you are now!
2. What keeps you blocked? (comfort zone) What seems to be familiar? Seek childhood patterns that seem to repeat in the present!
3. How is the strength of your talents compared to the current challenges? (attainable goals) Use intermediate objectives!
4. Can you simultaneously contemplate the desired future and track the possible obstacles in your way? (mental contrasting) Don’t indulge exclusively in imagining the future! Don’t dwell exclusively on the possible problems!
5. Does it happen to you to believe that an event preceding a past success seemed to be its cause or facilitator? (magical thinking) Use critical thinking! Superstitions and talismans don’t help!