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What’s Your Problem?


Practice Group Report

Our topic this month was ‘problems’. We normally emphasise the need to help clients to focus on their desired outcomes, using the PRO (Problem, Remedy, Outcome) model. This is primarily so that both client and facilitator are clear about what the coaching is aiming to achieve, and also because many clients know a lot about their problems, and not a lot about what they want. Spending time on their desired outcome redresses this balance.

Of course, this doesn’t mean that clients don’t have problems or that we don’t spend time on them; once an outcome has been established it is often necessary to model the problem, and in some cases clients really do not know what they want to achieve, except for a particular problem to go away.

So, within the context of establishing desired outcomes, we put our attention on the nature of peoples’ problems. What words and metaphors did people use to describe them? If they were resolved during the evening, what was the nature of that resolution?

Could we recognise the inherent logic of a problem and the way it was resolved? and the way it was resolved? For example, during his early days with Clean Language, David Grove noticed that certain problems would tend to be represented by certain metaphors, and that they would often resolve in a similar way. For example: a dark cloud (for depression) might turn into a white cloud or a bird; a brick wall (anger) might become a road or a house; and a knot in the stomach (anxiety) might become a cool, meandering stream (Resolving Traumatic Memories by David Grove and B.I. Panzer). So what patterns could we spot?

  • ‘Moving forward too slowly’ evolved into a metaphor of a ‘Flintstones’ type truck, with uneven, lumpy wheels that were prone to splintering. Its owner did not want to get on the truck while it was in this state. Fortunately, a piece of string appeared which allowed her to take it to the ‘truck garage’ where a man was able to sand and varnish the wheels. With the possibility of getting splinters having been removed, she could happily get on the truck and move forward.
  • Shutters and gates that keep closing featured in another metaphor, stopping a flow. This seemed to be problematic at first, but it later became clear that this was a safety mechanism that has some value.
  • In the context of building relationships, one person had a metaphor of fence panels which were acting as a barrier. After a golden ball appeared in her metaphor landscape the fence panels collapsed.
  • Being angry with herself was represented by a ball of fire. This turned into a resource when the person took action, and the ball of fire then dissipated.
Other problem metaphors were being in limbo (two people used this expression, which I looked up in the etymology book when I got home - it comes from the Latin word limbo, which means ‘on the edge’)
  • going into one’s head and cutting off the flow of things
  • not having control
  • a lack of resources - like being asked to write something but being in a dark room with no pen and no paper
  • being distracted from a path.

Image by Nicolas DEBRAY from Pixabay 

About Marian Way

Marian Way's avatar

A highly skilled facilitator and trainer, Marian, who founded Clean Learning in 2001, has developed and delivered training across the world. She is the author of Clean Approaches for Coaches, co-author, with James Lawley, of Insights in Space and co-author, with Caitlin Walker, of So you want to be… #DramaFree.

Marian is an expert Clean facilitator, an adept modeller, a programme writer and an inspirational trainer. She has a natural ability to model existing structures, find the connections between them and design new ways for people to learn. Marian was a leading innovator within the Weight Watchers organisation, which included developing the “points” strategy, a local idea that went on to become a global innovation. She is a director of both Clean Learning and Training Attention CIC, world leaders in clean applications for corporate, educational and community development. She designs our programmes and workbooks, leads workshops and teaches on all our courses. She’s trained people in Great Britain, Russia, Sweden, Germany, Australia, Japan and the USA. Marian is also a recognised Clean Assessor.

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