Emery- Questions to Explore Problems.pdf

What meaning do you make of that interpretations give

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What meaning do you make of that? Interpretations give information about the frame of reference from which the person perceives the problem and responds to it. See my blog post Frames of Reference ” for more about this topic. What other meanings could you make of that? Invites the person to explore other meanings and other possible frames of reference. Can you tell me more about that? Elicits additional information. It’s surprising how often this simple question yields crucial information that had not been mentioned before. Is there anything else you’d like to say about the problem? Similar to the previous question, but this one elicits information about the overall problem, rather than about a specific element of the problem. Q UESTIONS ABOUT THE P AST How did the problem come about? Seeks information about the events, actions, and reasons that led to the current situation. How did you become aware of the situation? The person may have anticipated the problem, or seen signs of it early on. Or the problem may have seemed to appear out of the blue. This may be important information about the person, the problem, and the environment in which the problem began and grew. Questions to Explore Problems Dale Emery 3
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Q UESTIONS ABOUT THE P RESENT What keeps the problem from resolving itself? There may be forces—personal, interpersonal, social, organizational, technical, or other—that actively sustain the situation, and even intentionally sustain it. What makes this a problem to solve now, rather than a month ago, or a month from now? This can yield information about changes in the situation, changes in the person’s perception of the situation, or changes in the person’s needs and concerns. What are you willing to do? This asks about the person’s abilities and priorities for solving the problem. What are you not willing to do? Seeks information about competing concerns, goals, and commitments, and about personal and organizational boundaries. Q UESTIONS ABOUT THE (I MAGINED ) F UTURE What will happen if this continues? The answer may or may not give reliable information about what will happen. More reliably, it gives information about the person’s expectations. What will you do if this continues? Checks for possible alternative courses of action, and the conditions under which the person might choose those. What’s the worst that could happen? You can ask this question either about the continuing problem, or about a course of action that the person is considering. The question helps to make the person’s vague fears concrete. This is a surprisingly powerful question, one that people often have not considered. In many cases, the “worst thing that could happen” is far more palatable than whatever vague, amorphous fears the person was harboring. What’s the best that could happen? This question allows for the possibility that the worst thing that could happen isn’t the only thing that could happen.
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