August 1, 2008

Focus on Facilitation: Pimp My Client's Ride?

Some interesting, creative, and not necessarily helpful new subquestions have been floating around the "Workosphere."

The latest one is "How does this thought make you feel safe?"

I have also heard:

*"What are you assuming when you think this thought?"

*"What are you avoiding when you think this thought?"

*"What do you stand to lose when you think this thought?" (Variation of an old one, "What does it cost you to hold this belief?")

*And one that strikes me as very complicated: "What are you not noticing when you believe this thought?"

It is natural that, as a facilitator, you will put your own fingerprint on the way ou ask the four questions and subquestions. We all have different styles of facilitating and communicating. For example, rather than ask, "What is the payoff for holding this belief?" (a subquestion of Question 3, "How do you react when you believe this thought?"), I will often ask, "How does it serve you to hold this belief?" I noticed over the years that some clients bristle at the word "payoff." This variation is in the same spirit of the original, but with slightly more gentle language.

Subquestions are just that: subtextual questions under the heading of the "basic four." They are meant to be used judiciously; the purpose is not to mire the client in questions, but to help your client go more deeply towards their own answers when they are feeling stuck or confused.

Of course, it's fine to use subquestions, and older versions of them are re-worded and new ones that make sense are adapted all the time. What you will notice about those newer subquestions is that they are very closely aligned with the basic four questions.

Personally, I'm fine with "What do you assume?" or "What do you avoid?" Assumptions and avoidance are reactions to beliefs, so these are fair questions for a facilitator to ask, when indicated.

"How does this thought make you feel safe?" is an assumption, and therefore can be a manipulation on the part of the facilitator. When you ask this made-up subquestion, you are telling the client that the belief makes the client feel safe; the client hasn't necessarily told you that. I wouldn't use this one.

"What are you not noticing when you believe this thought?" I find this one a little too creative for my comfort level; if I'm not noticing, how would I know what I don't notice? Question four, "Who would you be without this thought?" is more straightforward, and (in my opinion) does a better job of opening the mind to all possibilities. "When I let go of what I am, I become what I might be." —Lao Tzu

Developing Self-awareness in Facilitating with Subquestions

What do you notice about yourself when you pepper your client with creative subquestions (or even with lots of standard subquestions)?

*Are you trying to manipulate your clients' answers to be what you think they should answer?

*Do you want your clients and colleagues to see you as clever, skilled, insightful and sensitive?

*Do you think you have a better way? (There's nothing wrong with that, if indeed you do have a way that works better for you or for your clients, and if there is no stress in your belief. Just notice whether there is a hint of rebelliousness or superiority in your stance. If there's "rub" in your belief that you know best, inquire into it.)

The foot word of "facilitate" is facile, which means "easy to do." To facilitate is to make something easier, or to assist in another's progress. Therefore, the facilitator's job is to make it simple for the client to go within and find their answers. Does straying from the suggested procedures of inquiry, or adding new procedures, truly assist your client...or does it obstruct the process, create confusing tangents, take the focus away from the client and his or her needs?

©2008 by Carol L. Skolnick; all rights reserved.


RealityIsGod said...

The best facilitators, like Katie, appear at times to stray from the strict format. What they seem to be doing is using some of her ideas for deepening the inquiry, or re-framing the question, to get to the heart of the stressful thought.

This isn't always apparent to those newer to The Work, who may not see that the facilitator (or Katie herself) is honing in on the issue. They may feel frustrated with the seeming limitations and simplicity of The Work if they can't go beyond the format to the heart of the process.

Studying Katie’s guide to “deepening the inquiry” (in her books) may provide a practitioner of The Work a useful toolkit for expanding upon the basic questions without the risk of straying from the core of the work at hand.

Carol L. Skolnick said...

Hi "Reality,"

Great suggestion, thank you.