One of my coaching certifications is with an organization where coaches are taught to ask “why is this a problem?”
I get the underlying point of that question, but I think the word “problem” introduces a concept in the coaching session.
In other words, the word “problem” is usually loaded with meaning for people.
“Problem” means right or wrong, good or bad, responsible or irresponsible.
What is a “problem”? The Oxford dictionary defines the word problem as “a matter or situation regarded as unwelcome or harmful and needing to be dealt with and overcome.”
That sounds like a bummer.
I noticed sometimes that the client’s defenses would come up when I would ask, “Why is this a problem?”
After all, in my coaching relationships, we are looking at thinking, beliefs, feelings and situations to help my client show up intentionally, on purpose. And sometimes what’s there naturally is serving a valuable purpose yet benefits from a minor mental makeover.
No problems. Only a bunch of neutral words with a story wrapped around them.
So, I stopped using this question.
In its place, I started to use the word or concept “puzzle” as a word swap for “problem.”
- “What an interesting puzzle your mind is working to solve? What does it mean?”
- “When your mind is looking at those details, what puzzle is being assembled?”
- “How might your mind be complicating this from a simple decision to be made into a puzzle to be solved?
All of these questions point to the mind being a meaning making machine, looking to put pieces of information together into a coherent whole.
Isn’t that so much more open than “Why is this a problem?” or – worse! – “Why are you choosing to make this a problem?” (That is not the loving, welcoming relationship I aim to foster with my clients’ minds!)
The mind is already very busy assembling, searching, sorting…
…I want to bring it closer to seeing the situation as a fun game, somewhat made up, and definitely something that encourages creative participation.
When you’re tempted to think something is a problem…
When you’re focused on what’s going wrong…
When you’re stuck…
Consider yourself in the middle of assembling a puzzle.
Sometimes the pieces don’t go together at all because there isn’t a puzzle to be solved.
Simply words, feeling and experiences.
Until meaning is applied by your busy, puzzle loving mind.
How can this puzzle word swap work for you?
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