The Wheel Of Change
Dr Richard Bolstad
The Key Challenge Facing New Coaches Is Relationship-Based, Not Technique Based
For the last thirty years, I have trained counsellors, NLP Practitioners and coaches. I have also been a supervisor of these helpers, as they launch their new careers. Along the way I have developed my own models and change techniques to explain how to successfully help clients create the changes they want in their lives. But when I talk with new coaches about their work, the difficulties they have are rarely about how to do the specific processes that they learned in their trainings. The difficulties they have are about their relationship with their clients.
Understandably, those difficulties emerge out of the interaction between the coach's own relationship style and their clients' unique relationship styles. Increasingly, I have come to realise that different stages of the change process require different relationship styles. As a result, some practitioners are good at helping clients who are starting this process of change, some are good at helping clients who are good at finishing the process, and others are good at helping clients who are in the chaos at the centre of the process. If you understand this whole change cycle, you can recognise the strengths of your own helping style, and develop the skills you have previously found difficult. This will not only enable you to guide all your clients more effectively through the entire change process; it will also enrich your own personal life and enable you to make personal changes more effectively yourself. After all, what stops you helping your clients is the same thing that stops you changing yourself.
The Four Change Styles
The model I am presenting here emerged from an unusual source. Bill Moyer is a social change theorist. He works with organisations seeking social changes: organisations working for outcomes such as a more ecological and just society. Moyer has proposed that "There are four different roles activists and social movements need to play in order to successfully create social change; the citizen, rebel, change agent, and reformer. Each role has different purposes styles, skills and needs, and can be played effectively or ineffectively.... Both individual activists and movement organisations need to understand that social movements require all four roles, and that participants and their organisations can choose which ones to play depending on their own makeup and the needs of the movement." (Moyer, 2001, p. 21).
I want to first explain these roles in the social sense that Moyer uses them, and then apply them to individual change work. This will deliver you a model of change that makes sense whether you are working with an individual, a family, an organisation or a society. To make sense in more general terms, I will call Moyers' four styles:
- The Auditor (what Moyers called the Citizen)
- The Rebel
- The Innovator (what Moyers called the Change Agent)
- The Reformer.
The above sequence is the sequence in which the change styles are required, as a person, organisation or society shifts from their old state to their new state. This sequence is what I am calling "The Wheel of Change".
Moyer explains each style in general terms and with examples, and as an NLP Trainer, I notice that there is a structure behind the individual styles. These change styles differ in their relationship to two personality continua (metaprograms) described in NLP (see Charvet, 1997):
- Preference for Sameness (Matching) vs Preference for Difference (Mismatching)
- Towards Motivation vs Away-From Motivation
Here is a table summarising the relationship of the metaprograms to the organisational change roles.
Matching and Mismatching refer to the extent to which a person pays attention to and appreciates the similarities (between two aspects of their experience, between their view and yours, between what has previously happened and what is happening now etc) or the differences. Sameness people notice similarities and prefer that things stay the same, whereas Differences people notice differences and prefer that things change. Towards and Away From refer to the "direction" in which someone is motivated to act. Some people are motivated mostly towards their goals and desired results, some mostly to avoid risks and problems.
The Four Styles In Social Change
First, I'll explain the four styles in the original context where Moyers observed them: social activism.
Auditors (Citizens) frame a new idea for social change as a necessary way to more fully express the true, underlying values that their society has already committed itself to. They feel part of their society and want it to be even more true to its own ideals. They describe their activism as being a way to be a good citizen and support the true needs of their society. They urge society to move away from those things that don't really fit with its own highest ideals. For example, the African American activist Martin Luther King described his aim as to "fulfil the American dream, not to destroy it." (Quoted in Moyer, 2001, p. 11). This is important at the start of a social change process. It raises issues in a way that those who fear change may find more acceptable, by suggesting that change will actually help stability. Auditors match their society and move away from its inconsistencies.
Rebels take action to get away from harmful social systems. They directly challenge society as it is. They describe their activism as a way to eliminate injustice and suffering. Often critical both of established society and utopian or reformist plans for a new society, they urge society first to confront and give up what is wrong. Rebuilding is for later. The Anarchist revolutionary Michael Bakunin stated a core Rebel value when he said "The urge to destroy is also a creative urge." This is important to give energy to the change process once it has begun, to ensure that things don't just settle down as they were. When successful, this rebel style provokes such a strong response that it becomes impossible to go back to the old order. Rebels mismatch their society and move away from its failures.
Innovators (Change Agents) organise and participate in community actions which are an alternative or a vocal opposition movement opposed to the established social systems. They urge society to create a new social order and see their movement as the kernel of this order. The creators of collective industries in the Spanish revolution were Change Agents, as were the creators of the first women's refuges, alternative schools, and eco-villages. This creation is an essential antidote to the rebel style, and it gives the first expression to positive action in the change process. It provides and tests real life models of what the future could be like. Innovators mismatch old systems and move towards new possibilities.
Reformers work within mainstream systems to get the movement's aims expressed in concrete terms and installed into accepted practice. They see social change as a process of convincing governments, community agencies and corporations to put new schemes into practice. They cooperate with existing agencies to build the new society. New Zealand suffragette Kate Sheppard described her work to get women the vote in these terms. Reform is essential to ensure that the new practices become universally accepted and incorporated into every facet of daily life. Reformers match their social systems and match the new ideas, and move towards a successful blending of these.
Moyer gives several examples of effective integration of these four roles in social change campaigns. One is the campaign to end apartheid style rules about where black people sat on southern USA buses in the mid twentieth century. On December 1st, 1955, African American Rosa Parks was arrested in Montgomery, Alabama, for refusing to give up her seat on the bus for a white person. For 381 days, the 50,000 strong black population of Montgomery boycotted the buses, until the United States supreme court overturned the Alabama segregation laws. Bill Moyer points out that in such a campaign all four of his MAP (Movement Action Plan) roles come into play. "The boycott effectively used all four MAP roles. The citizens [auditors] kept the campaign grounded in the nation's widely held values of democracy and freedom, and their demands were based on the civil rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution. Many of the citizens were based in the Christian church, which was revered by the large majority of whites in Montgomery and within mainstream America. The rebels brought attention to the movement with the non-violent bus boycott campaign. The entire black community of Montgomery filled the social change agent [innovators] role by its involvement in the boycott, mass meetings, and car-pooling. Finally, the reformers ultimately won the day through the court case, which was decided favourably by the U. S. Supreme Court." (Moyer, 2001, p. 120)
The Four Styles In Organisational Change
Now lets consider the four styles in a business organisation that undergoes major changes.
Auditors frame the organisational change needed as a way to more fully express the true, underlying values that the organisation has already committed itself to. They feel part of their organisation, and want to support the true needs of their organisation. They urge the organisation to move away from those errors that don't really fit with its own highest ideals. An example would be the Japanese textile manufacturer Sakichi Toyoda and his son Kiichiro Toyoda. In 1924 Sakichi Toyoda developed a device which automatically stopped his weaving loom when a thread breakage was detected. Kiichiro Toyoda created a car manufacturing company (Toyota) using Jidoka, a production system modelled metaphorically on this loom. Jidoka is a defect detection system that trusts any worker to stop production whenever they detect an error, and direct all attention to repair. When the design plans for the original loom were stolen, Kiichiro Toyoda commented on the benefits of constantly monitoring a system and improving it, saying "Certainly the thieves may be able to follow the blueprints and produce a loom. But we are modifying and improving our looms everyday. By the time the thieves have produced a loom from the plans they stole, we will have already advanced well beyond it." (Morgan and Liker, 2006, p 333). This is the Auditors approach to change and indeed it was Kiichiro Toyoda himself who set up what he called the Audit Improvement Committee within Toyota in 1943. Auditing is the essential first step in demonstrating to the organisation that change is necessary. Auditors match their organisation's core values and outcomes, and move away from its inconsistencies.
Rebels take action to get away from and eliminate what they believe are harmful systems. They directly challenge the organisation as it is. They describe their action as a way to eliminate mistakes, injustices, failures, bureaucracy and waste. Often critical both of established organisational systems and reformist plans for a new system, they urge the organisation first to confront and give up what is wrong. Rebuilding is for later. An example would be Anita Roddick, founder of the Body Shop, who said "I have always been an activist, an agitator and an entrepreneur rather than a conventional business leader.... Far too much conventional business thinking is about finding out what your competitors are doing and copying them. At The Body Shop, we looked at the opposition and did exactly the opposite. That meant constantly following unmapped paths." The book this quote comes from is fittingly called "Business As Unusual". (Roddick, 2008, front and p 284). Rebels shake up an organisation so that change is pushed onto the agenda and cannot be avoided. Rebels mismatch their organisation as well as their industry, and move away from the established rules.
Innovators organise and participate in processes which are an alternative or an opposition movement opposed to the established systems. They urge the organisation to create a new system and see their own actions and their own team, department or organisation as the kernel of this order. An example would be Mary Kay Ash, founder of Mary Kay cosmetics, who said "After making a long list of the qualities of the dream company I would have wanted to work for, I thought "Instead of writing a book about how a good company should run, wouldn't it be great if someone ran one." And so the idea of Mary Kay Cosmetics was born." (Williams and Williams, 2003, p 334). In her own book she says "Real leaders... set examples for others by demonstrating good work habits, displaying positive attitudes and possessing a team spirit. True leaders establish success patterns that make everyone think success." (Ash, 2008, p ix). Innovators generate the first successes for a new change process and provide models for an organisation to study the new ideas. Within an organisation, they may set up a project team which test drives the new system, or create trainings where new procedures are role-played. Innovators mismatch old systems and move towards and create new models.
Reformers work within the mainstream organisational systems to get their vision of a better future expressed in concrete terms. They see organisational change as a process of convincing governments, community agencies and corporations themselves to put new schemes into practice. They cooperate with existing agencies, authorities and systems to build the new structures into what is there. An example would be John H. Johnson, who first published an African American magazine in 1942 at a time when, as a "negro" he was not even allowed to stay at most business hotels across America. By 1995 he was America's leading African American business owner and ran a range of companies that included cosmetics producers, life insurance providers and magazine printers, almost all directed primarily at the African American market. Johnson said "I don't want to destroy the system; I want to get into it." (Gross, 1996, p 153). "We try to seek out good things, even when everything seems bad," Johnson said in explaining the purpose of his Ebony magazine. "We look for breakthroughs, we look for people who have made it, who have succeeded against the odds, who have proven somehow that longshots do come in." His pride in achieving success within the established system is demonstrated by the fact that when his magazines first came out they had difficulty getting any advertising by white companies. By 1995, 80 of the 100 largest advertisers in the USA advertised in Ebony. Reformers spread organisational change through the system, ensuring that all practices are aligned with the new vision. They create operating manuals for actioning the principles that the Rebels demanded and the Innovators test drove. Reformers match their organisation and match the new ideas, and move towards a successful blending of these.
The Four Styles In Personal Change
Now let's consider the styles in a personal coaching or counselling situation. In coaching and counselling, we are assisting people to make changes, which means assisting them to move through the wheel of change. Our clients may have a strong preference for one or other of the change styles: if they compulsively use that style alone they will seem to be "stuck" at that stage in the change cycle. Often a coach or counsellor has a strong preference for working with one of the change styles. They understand the strengths and weaknesses of that style (perhaps because it is their own style) and find it easier to successfully help people with that style. As an example, in 1965 a fascinating film was made demonstrating the work of three very different psychotherapists: Carl Rogers (Client Centred Therapy), Fritz Perls (Gestalt Therapy) and Albert Ellis (Rational Emotive Therapy). The film was produced by Dr Everett L. Shostrom, (Actualizing Therapy) who had been Gloria's principal therapist for some years and helped her integrate the three sessions afterwards. Each of these four therapists focused on a different stage in the wheel of change. Each of them had skills for working with Gloria at one of the four steps in particular.
Auditor: Gloria begins her first session (with Carl Rogers) by stating "Ah, the biggest thing I want, the thing that keeps coming to my mind I want to tell you about is I have a daughter, nine, who at one time I felt had a lot of emotional problems ... and I wish I could stop shaking ... and ah, I'm real conscious of things affecting her. I don't want her to get upset; I don't want to shock her. I want so bad for her to accept me. And we're real open with each other, especially about sex ... and the other day she saw a girl that was single but pregnant and she asked me all about "Can girls get pregnant if they're single?" And the conversation was fine, and I wasn't un-at-ease at all with her, until she asked me if I'd ever made love to a man since I've left her daddy. And I lied to her; and ever since that it keeps coming up to my mind, 'cause I feel so guilty lying to her; 'cause I never lie, and I want her to trust me. And I want, I almost want an answer from you; I want you to tell me if it will affect her wrong if I told her the truth, or what."
At this point Gloria wants her behaviour to be more consistent, to match better. She is moving away from the experience of lying and wants that sense of trust again. She has framed the issue in Citizen/Auditor terms. Carl Rogers matches Gloria's core value of open relationship (even more strongly than Gloria has) and notes that she wants to move away from the harm that has been done to it. He says "And it's this concern about her, and the fact that you really aren't; that this open relationship that has existed between you, now you feel is kind of damaged." She agrees.
As their session moves on, to help her reframing the challenge she faces, Rogers tells her "I guess; I am sure this will sound evasive to you, but it seems to me that perhaps the person you are not being fully honest with is you; because I was very much struck by the fact that you were saying, "If I feel alright about what I have done, whether it's going to bed with a man or what, if I really feel alright about it, then I do not have any concern about what I would tell Pam, or my relationship with her. Gloria agrees and replies "Right. Alright. Now I hear what you are saying. Then alright, then I want to work on accepting me then. I want to work on feeling alright about it. That makes sense. Then that will come natural and then I won't have to worry about Pammy."
Carl Rogers is, in Moyer's terms, a citizen (in my terms an auditor), and he has great skill working with clients at this stage of change in particular. He matches Gloria and helps her move away from what does not work in her own behaviour. He aims to help her be more fully who she is by avoiding incongruity. In doing so he very gently shifts her from away-from descriptions of her situation to towards descriptions.
Rebel: Gloria's second session is with Fritz Perls. Gloria opens the session with the words, "Right away, I'm scared." and Perls immediately responds "You say you're scared, but you are smiling. I don't understand how one can be scared and smile at the same time." Perls develops this theme a bit further a few minutes later when he remarks, "Are you aware of your smile, you don't believe a word of what you are saying... You are a phony." Gloria argues "Oh, I resent that very much!... I most certainly am not being phony. I will admit this; it's hard for me to show my embarrassment and I hate to be embarrassed. But boy I resent you calling me a phony. Just because I smile when I am embarrassed or I'm put in a corner doesn't mean I'm being a phony!" Perls leans forward to shake her hand and says "Wonderful! Thank you. You didn't smile for the last minute." Gloria comes into this interaction in quite a different state to the one she was in at the start of her session with Rogers. She intuits that this is related to the way Perls looks and sounds, and she may be right. Whatever the cause, she begins in the Rebel style, and Perls is completely at ease with this. In fact, he says nearer the end of the session "Well Gloria, can you sense one thing. We had a good fight." Instead of gently helping Gloria notice that it is she who is being dishonest with herself, as Rogers did, Perls mismatches and challenges her to stop this "being phony". By his own mismatching he then provokes the response that he wants to support (her being congruent, albeit congruently angry). Gloria, in fact, is surprised at how at ease Perls seems in this mismatching and away from exchange. She says about his fighting comment "But you seem so detached. You don't even seem to care that I'm mad at you."
Innovator: Gloria's third session is with Albert Ellis, and again she raises the issue of her dishonesty, this time in relation to the men she dates. Gloria begins by explaining that she has read Dr Ellis' book and she wants to apply his model in her interaction with men. In terms of my model, she announces that she is in Change agent/Innovator mode. After exploring her current thinking patterns (which he calls catastrophising), Ellis encourages Gloria to install a new strategy of thinking, to enable herself to be more "up-front" with the men she dates. He tells her that change doesn't just happen as a result of knowing what is wrong though. It involves her being willing to "work and practice, work and practice how to be yourself." Gloria agrees "I want a step towards working towards this." He says "If you were one of my regular patients I would give you this homework assignment and then check up on you to see whether you can force yourself to open your big mouth and be you for a while.... After a while if you took the risks and forced yourself to, as I said, open your big mouth now (and even though you thought, "Maybe it will come out badly, maybe he won't like me, maybe I'll lose him completely, and so on and so forth.") then you'd start swinging in the groove and being what you want to be, and I would almost guarantee that you'd become more practiced and less inefficient, especially in terms of the shyness, because you wouldn't be focusing on "Oh my God, is this awful. How bad I am." Because you would be focusing on "What a nice individual this is, and how can I enjoy him?" which is the focus of a relationship." Ellis focuses Gloria on the alternative thinking pattern that she could begin putting in place to create a new future. He is very clear about how to help her move towards this different way of behaving, which is to say, he is familiar with the Innovator style. He has little interest, for example, in the "fight" that Perls co-created with her, or in just empathising with her dilemma and helping her clarify her choices the way Rogers did.
Reformer: After the three sessions, Gloria is interviewed by Everett Shostrom and she reviews what she has learned from the three very different encounters. Shostrom's task is of course to help her make sense of the encounters and think about where she goes from here. He knows, in that sense, that he is going to assist Gloria to move through the Reformer phase of change. She explains "First of all, I found I was the most relaxed and the most comfortable with Dr Rogers, and I enjoyed talking to him, and I felt free. And I was afraid of Dr Perls and I wasn't near as comfortable with him. And Dr Ellis I couldn't keep up with. I had to think more with him and I didn't feel as sharp with him. It took me a while to sink in what he was saying.... I felt my more lovable, soft caring self with Dr Rogers, and I even felt more real, even about sex, and I was surprised with that. And Dr Ellis I just ah, I will say I felt cold towards Dr Ellis. I didn't have enough feeling; I was so busy trying to think with him, but I didn't have enough feeling there. And I feel the most, the biggest amount of emotions came up with me in Dr Perls"
So far, Gloria has suggested that only Roger's session was of value, and Shostrom aims to help her find what will be valuable in all of her experiences. Shostrom prompts her "Lets think about each of them again, in terms of what you learned." Gloria explains "I found that if I would just see a man like Dr Rogers, it would be harder for my anger and my spitfire self to come out, so I don't think it would be as full balanced therapy, for me anyway. I'd tend to lean on him too much maybe. And Dr Perls I can see that I'd want to get in there and fight. Especially with Dr Perls and Dr Rogers they're almost a perfect combination for me, because I can be so much more my one side with Dr Perls and the opposite with Dr Rogers. And I felt unfinished especially with Dr Perls. I wanted more; I wanted to go on more. I felt real let down." Shostrom askes her "Would you say you felt your feeling self with Dr Rogers, your fighting self with Dr Perls and your... " and she completes "...my thinking self with Dr Ellis. Exactly." Gloria indicates that she understands that each therapist's style linked to a particular stage of therapy. She says "I feel that if I were to go into therapy, especially being brand new, I would choose someone like Dr Rogers because it wouldn't frighten me so. But I think at the stage of the game I am right now, Dr Perls could be the most valuable to me. So he isn't quite as coddling, but I think I could really get a lot from him... although I'd want to battle with him too."
Gloria, reflecting some 13 years later on her sessions, had extra comments about Fritz Perls. She said that she had now changed her mind, and realised that after the session with Perls, she felt "small, belittled, unimportant, confused and lacking wholeness. In a sense then, I felt a bit of myself destroyed in that short session." (Dolliver, Williams, and Gold, 1980). These comments demonstrate the dangers of the Rebel style when it is not effectively followed by more positive processes. As Gloria said at the time, she felt that her process with Dr Perls was incomplete. Understandably, the risks of this are greater when the interaction is mismatching and away from.
However Dr Shostrom's role itself is also important in the therapeutic process. He helps her link the therapeutic experience into her daily life and think about what she would choose to do next as a result of it. He is not, at this time, attempting to push more change in terms of her honesty with herself, but merely to check how she will use and integrate what she has learned into her future daily life. This is the function of the Reformer.
Developing Your Flexibility With The Metaprograms
To be able to do effective coaching, it is useful to have the flexibility to match and mismatch, and to move away from as well as towards. As you guide your client though these different styles, your own ability to use each style facilitates their progress. It is also useful to know how to respond to each style in order to ensure the person is not limited by that style. For example, it is useful to be able to respond to someone who moves away from problems in such a way as to enable them to also reach their desired outcomes.
Next I want to review in more detail what I mean by matching, mismatching, towards and away from. I want to give some general suggestions about responding to these styles (based on the work of NLP Trainer Shelle Rose Charvet, 1997), and then come back to thinking about how to work therapeutically in a coaching situation with each style.
Sameness and Difference
When people pay attention to the world, they can either notice mostly the similarities or mostly the differences (or some of each). People who notice sameness most (matchers) will also like things to stay the same, and they like to agree with others. Reformers and Citizens (Auditors) tend to use matching more. People who notice differences more (mismatchers) will also like to change, and they like to clarify differences with people. Change agents (Innovators) and Rebels tend to use mismatching more. To the sameness person, a friend is someone who shares your views and does things together in the same way as you. To the differences person, a friend is someone who tells you "where they stand", opens your life up to new things, and respects your uniqueness. Using NLP questionnaires, we have found that most of the population identifies sameness and then notices the exceptions or differences within that (ie they are in the middle of the continuum).
Certain careers (the military, empathic counselling, factory process work, and nursing, for example) encourage paying attention to sameness. Other careers (such as accounting, legal work, quality control, university lecturing and political activism) encourage attention to differences. People who sort mostly for differences will feel interested when a project is described as "revolutionary", "new", "totally unique", "unheard of", and "a complete turn around". People sorting for sameness will prefer projects described as "maintaining", "identical in style", and "like earlier projects". People sorting for sameness and then noticing the exceptions to that will enjoy projects described as "better", "more advanced", "improved", "a further development"
To find out whether someone mainly pays attention to differences or to similarities, you'd ask them, "What is the relationship between what you're doing in this context this year and what you were doing last year?" There are three main possible results of asking the question:
1) Sameness: It's exactly the same.
2) Sameness with exception: There's a lot of similarity except that it has developed.
3) Difference: It's totally different. OR What do you mean by "relationship?"
In an organisational change context, Auditors (Citizens) and Reformers are sameness focused. Rebels and Innovators (Change Agents) sort mainly for differences. How can you get people with these two different personality types to work together in a group or get an individual with a "compulsive pattern" to have more flexibility? There are several things you can do to help others to get their pattern to work better for them, for example:
For working with sameness people:
- Build markers of familiarity into change processes for similarities people. Show them how to detect what will be the same or be preserved over the course of the changes.
- Give sameness people the task of monitoring ongoing processes needed for stability, and identifying what works already.
For working with differences people:
- Build differences and variations into any repetitive task for a differences person.
- Give differences people the task of identifying flaws, and thinking up new ideas.
- Give differences people something to disagree with that leaves the things they want stable.
- Invite differences people to consider a decision from the other side, using phrases such as: "Maybe you don't want to do it this new way?" "It's a good idea, do you not think so?"
- Do not use the words "have to" and "must" with differences people, unless you want them to disagree. Use "could".
Much of change depends on the ability to mismatch. As George Bernard Shaw said in his 1903 "Maxims for Revolutionists", "The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable one persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man." On the other hand, there is an important effect of matching that people in organisations or one-to-one relationships benefit from understanding. Matching is the basis for keeping people working together, because matching is what creates "rapport". Rapport is the sense that you have a common bond with someone, that you're on the same wavelength, that you see eye-to-eye. It's the feeling of shared understanding that happens between old friends.
Double Handshake: A Sameness-Differences Exercise
Stand in a pair and look at the person in front of you. Realise that you could recognise this person as different, compared to any of the 7 billion people of the planet. They are different to all humans who have ever lived, and different to all who ever will live. There is no-one else who has exactly the same appearance, life experiences and opinions as this person. Meeting them is a unique moment in your life. As you realise this, reach out and hold their right hand with your right hand.
Look at them again, and realise that the shape of their face, the colour of their eyes and the type of hair they have has been inherited from their parents. When you look at them, you see into their family of origin. The way they speak and even their gestures are learned in a social context. Looking at them, you are looking at their culture and their social group. Their DNA is mostly the same as that of every other human being on the planet, including you. Looking into their eyes you look into the eyes of all humanity, and your brain recognises your common ancestry with them. As they breathe, notice that they breathe in air that is produced by the plants on this planet, and as they breathe out they nourish those plants. They have co-evolved with all the other living things on this planet and could not have emerged outside it. When you look at this person, you look at one of the fruits of the ecosystem of the whole planet. Their body is made of atoms from the sun, and looking into their eyes, you see the structure of the universe revealed. As you understand their inseparability from all that exists, reach out and hold their left hand with your right hand.
Now, without needing to think of any particular meaning, reach out and take their right hand in your right hand, and reach out over the top of this and take their left hand in your left hand. Allow your body to understand them as simultaneously unique in all history, and one with all that exists.
Towards And Away From
When people motivate themselves to act, they can either notice mostly what they are wanting to change or move away from (the problems), or mostly the things they want to create or move towards (the solutions), or some of each. People who move Towards their desired outcomes are energized and excited by their goals, and may at times seem to naively not notice the problems they may face. Reformers and Change Agents or Innovators (using Moyer's model of social change roles) tend to be motivated Towards more. People who move Away From undesirable problems more will be energized by challenges, and may at times seem to get "stuck" complaining about the various crises, challenges and unacceptable events they want to draw attention to. Citizens (Auditors) and Rebels tend to be motivated Away From more.To the Towards person, what matters is the vision, the result that we are moving towards. They can explain in detail what results they want, but may be unclear about what the current situation is. To the Away From person, what matters is the challenge in the current situation. They can explain in detail what must be changed and why, but may be unclear exactly what they want instead. Using NLP questionnaires, we have found that about 40% of the population mainly uses Away From motivation, about 40% mainly uses Towards motivation, and about 20% uses both equally.
Certain career paths (medicine, insurance, and policing, for example) encourage paying attention to what is wrong and moving away from it. Other career paths (such as tourism, artistic design and ) encourage attention to desired results and moving towards these. People who are motivated Towards will feel interested when a project is described with words such as "achieving", "benefits", "advantages" and "what you've wanted". People who are motivated Away From will prefer projects described with words such as "solve", "avoid", "get rid of", "prevent", and "find out what's wrong".To find out whether someone mainly motivates themselves Towards or Away From, you'd ask them, "Why is this important to you?" There are three main possible results of asking the question:
4) Towards: Because it gets me what I want.
5) Away From: Because it helps me avoid what I don't want.
6) Towards and Away From: Because it get me what I want and avoids what I don't want.
A fully "towards" person gets up in the morning by thinking of all the things they want to achieve. The "away from" person gets up by thinking of all the problems they'll have if they don't get up soon. A towards motivated entrepreneur wants to earn money because of all the thing they can do with it. An away from motivated entrepreneur is more interested in avoiding bankruptcy and poverty.
Anthony Robbins tells of a business disagreement he and his partners had with a man who'd done some work for them. Robbins began their meeting by telling the man that he wanted to create an outcome that would work well for both of them. The man said that didn't interest him - he just wanted Robbins attorney to stop calling and hassling him. Puzzled, Robbins suggested that at least in a basic way they were all committed to helping both themselves and others experience better quality of life. The man disagreed.
At this point, Robbins says, a light bulb finally lit up inside his head and he changed gears. He told the man that if they didn't sort out the issue within the next sixty seconds, Robbins was not going to carry on negotiating. He suggested that the man check inside to see "if you're willing to pay the price that you're going to have to pay...Because I'm going to continually tell people about how you behaved here and what you did...You can decide now that you want to work this thing out or otherwise you're going to lose everything... Check me out. See if I'm congruent" .It took him twenty seconds to jump up and say to Robbins "Look guys, I always wanted to work with you. I know we can work this out." Robbins points out that the man didn't do it grudgingly. "He got up enthusiastically, as though we were true pals. He said "I just wanted to know we could talk."
Robbins had recognised the man's "away from" motivation. Finding a co-operative solution just didn't mean anything to him. Avoiding conflict and embarrassment did. If Robbins had used such threatening language with a "towards" person they'd have left the room. But for this man, reminding him what he could lose actually motivated him to co-operate fully. Robbins NLP training enabled him to create rapport with someone others might have considered a lost cause. In doing so it saved him a costly court case and won him a useful ally (Robbins, 1986, p 270).
On the day Nelson Mandela became president of South Africa, he revealed his ability to use both towards and away from language, saying "My government's commitment to create a people-centered society of liberty binds us to the pursuit of the goals... [ Towards language] ... of freedom from hunger, freedom from deprivation, freedom from ignorance, freedom from suppression and freedom from fear. [Away From language]" (Quoted in Charvet, 1997, p 39)
How can you get people with these two different personality types to work together in a group or get an individual with a "compulsive pattern" to have more flexibility? There are several things you can do to help others to get their pattern to work better for them, for example:
For working with Towards people:
- Show them how checking for possible safety and resistance issues will help in reaching goals more effectively.
- Give them the task of identifying and designing the progress towards goals.
For working with Away From people:
- Explain the problems that setting a clear goal will help solve.
- Describe goal-setting as creating deadlines for solving the problems.
- Give them the task of identifying, monitoring and solving the problems in a plan.
- Have them do something (anything) and then "fix it" as a way of reaching the outcome they are aiming for.
Aligning Neurological Levels (An Away-From and Towards Exercise) From Robert Dilts
1. Choose a problem you've had, and would like to change in a fundamental way.
2. Stand somewhere with plenty of space in front of you (enough to step forward six times). Think of the environment where the problem (that you want to move away from) occurs. Notice what you see, and listen to the sounds there.
3. Take a step forward. Consider what you actually do and say in the problem situation. Just run a movie of what happens with that problem.
4. Take another step forward. When you do those things, what capabilities, what skills are you using (perhaps habits that you wish you didn't use, but that happen automatically, or skills that don't seem to work for you)? And what skills are you not using?
5. Take another step forward. Consider what beliefs you are acting on in that situation. What is important to you when you are in that situation (it may be just changing the situation)? What do you find yourself believing about your potential or lack of it, and about the situation that you want to change?
6. Take another step forward. Who are "you" in this situation? What kind of person are you in this situation and what would you like to change about that?
7. Take another step forward, and remember that you are here for a reason. You only got yourself into that situation because, in a wider sense, you're here on earth for a reason. You may not know in words what that reason is, but notice it now. Realise that this "reason" connects you to something vast. You may think of it as God, as the universe and the laws of nature, as consciousness or beingness, or just as humanity. But it is a vast source of energy, in front of you now.
8. Take another step forward, into that source of energy. Feel its power.
9. As you feel that power, take a step back and notice how that power gives renewed strength to your mission, your reason. Take another step back and feel how that power transforms your sense of who you are. Take another step back and feel how that power changes what you believe about that situation you were considering; changes what seems important there. Take another step back and notice how it changes what skills you can use there, gives you new choices. Take another step back and be aware of how using those skills, with that vast power, changes what you will do and say there. Take another step back and be aware how those actions, done with that power, will change the situation itself.
10. Thank that power.
Coaching Processes That Focus On The Change Style At Each Stage
Now that we have covered all the core background information about this model, I will introduce four core models of coaching that I believe are particularly suited to these four stages of change. In each case I will discuss how to use that methodology to deal with clients who seems stuck in the cycle of change at their usual and preferred style of operating. The aim of these models is both to meet the client where they are (in their current change style) and to assist them to move on through the change process rather than becoming stuck in that style. The coaching models I will introduce are just examples of working with each stage. I have chosen them because they all emerged from the same basis (largely the work of Milton Erickson and the collection of change models associated with Neuro Linguistic Programming) and form an easily integrated unit. In each case, my aim is not to cover fully how to use each model (a subject that would take at least four books) but simply to frame the model in terms of the wheel of change. Previously, most writers have described these very different models of coaching as a result of therapists/coaches having different styles themselves. One of my hopes is that coaches can now identify different styles of coaching as effective responses to clients using different styles in their attempt to change. The models I will review are:
- Reflective Coaching (For dealing with the Auditor style/stage)
- Provocative Coaching (For dealing with the Rebel style/stage)
- Solution Focused NLP - Strategy Creation (For dealing with the Innovator style/stage)
- Tasking (For dealing with the Reformer style/stage)
Dealing With The Client Who Matches and Moves Away From: Reflective Coaching
Over 50% of the clients who come to me in counselling, and many coaching clients present with comments that are matching and away from. They know that they want things to change, but when I ask them what they want instead, their mind keeps going back to what they have already. Their internal representations have not changed in content (they still imagine the same thing they have been doing for the last several years) but the feeling response to it is now away-from.
To get the away-from oriented client to think towards their goals, I utilise pacing (creating similarity, letting them know that I can "walk alongside them") and then leading (inviting them to consider things differently). The extent to which I convey the feeling that I understand them is the extent to which they will feel safe next to consider my new "towards" frame. Again, we have a great deal of evidence backing up the value of both non-verbal and verbal pacing.
Psychology researcher Lawrence Rosenblum notes that numerous studies now show that matching someone else's behaviour non-verbally enables them to be more open to considering your suggestions. He lists the following examples "Being subtly imitated by a "negotiator" would make you more likely to agree with his or her opinion (Maddux et alia, 2008). Being imitated by a pretend cola salesman would make you more likely to rate the soda favourably and drink more of it during your interaction. You'd give a higher tip to a waitress who imitates your order verbatim rather than paraphrasing (van Baaren et alia, 2004). And you'd even rate a computer animated "interviewer" as more persuasive and positive if it subtly imitated your own head nodding (Bailenson and Yee, 2005). Finally, when GPS driving directions are conveyed by a voice that matches your own vocal emotion, you're less distracted than if provided directions by a voice not matching your emotion (Jonsson et alia, 2008)." In Lawrence Rosenblum's book "See What I'm Saying" (Rosenblum, 2010, p 211) he lists several other examples of this research. People who sing in time with each other (as opposed to singing the same song but not in unison) or walk in step with each other for a few minutes (as opposed to simply walking beside each other) are then much more cooperative with each other. They also report "a feeling of connectedness and trust with their partner subjects" after doing this (Wiltermuth and Heath, 2009).
Research identifying the effectiveness of verbal pacing (often called "reflective listening"; restating what the person said in similar words) first emerged in 1950, and a summary of the 50 years of continuing evidence for this core helping skill is presented by Allen Bergin and Sol Garfield (1994) in their Handbook of Psychotherapy. It is the core skill used by Carl Rogers. Building rapport in NLP terms also includes pacing the person's core metaprograms (personality style) and values as these are revealed. Clients have been shown, for example, to prefer a counsellor whose word use matches their own representational system (visual, auditory, kinesthetic or auditory digital) by a ratio of three to one! (Brockman, 1980). The type of reflective statement which will be useful varies depending on how fully the Practitioner has succeeded in establishing rapport already. Early on, replies which match the client's conscious experience (as expressed in their words) will be most acceptable. Later on, replies which match the client's semi-conscious values, beliefs and evolving sense of identity will be accepted and may be more powerful (Carkhuff, 1973). Consider the following client situation and statement.
A mother is talking about her relationship with her 17 year old son. She has discussed his use of illegal drugs and her attempts to caution him about the dangers of these. She has teary eyes and looks down, shaking her head as she speaks. "He knows he can get away with it; that's the thing. If he just stays in his room and sulks for a couple of days, I just about go crazy with worry. Eventually, he gets whatever he wants -permission to go out with his friends, use of the car. In the end, I give in, and I know its my own fault. I can hardly blame him, when I'm so inconsistent."
Reflective listening to this message could acknowledge:
- Key words stated by the client eg "Inconsistent." or "You worry."
- Simple facts reported by the client eg "So at the start you tell him he can't have what he wants, but if he continues, that concern leads you to give in and let him have it."
- The emotional state of the client as surmised from behaviour and statements eg "You feel so worried, and you feel upset and guilty; is that right?"
- The facts and the emotional state that they have triggered eg "You feel worried about what he's up to, and you feel disappointed in yourself for giving in to him too; is that it?"
- A summary of the client's story so far eg "So there are several levels to this problem. There are things like the drug taking that you've been concerned about. And then there's the interaction between the two of you as you try to stop those other problems and end up giving in to him. Right?"
- Dilemmas or incongruities implied by the client's statements and/or behaviour. eg "Let me check this then. Sounds like an internal conflict. On the one hand, you worry about him and want him to be happy. On the other hand, you'd like to be more assertive and stick to your own decisions, even if that results in conflict. Does that make sense to you?"
- The deeper significance or meaning of the experiences reported by the client. eg "I get the impression that the person that you feel most disappointed with at those times is actually yourself. The issue you're dealing with sounds like it's also about you taking charge of your own life and being more certain about what you want. Is that close?"
- The client's outcome eg "Are you saying you'd like to find some way that you can be more consistent, and less swayed by his behaviour?"
While the later replies in this list invite a deeper response, any of these replies has a good chance of communicating to the client that she is understood and that the Coach recognises her own positive intentions. The purpose of reflective listening is partially to reassure the person that they are not being blamed, judged, or controlled by the consultant. This meta-communication creates a safe environment for the client to explore their dilemmas and begin to identify their own outcome. At the same time, these replies are far from "non-directive". They all share a similar focus or "frame". Part of this "frame" is the focusing on the client's own responses, rather than the behaviour of other people (such as her son). A metacommunication of this client-centred focus is that the aim of consulting is to help her change her own responses; to take charge of her own maps and state, to be "at cause".
Dealing With The Client Who Mismatches and Moves Away From: Provocative Coaching
At the away from and mismatching phase of the change cycle, one of the most significant challenges is for the client to begin to blame the "failure" of the change process on the coach and the model of change being used. This shifts their attention away from their own control of events, and reduces their motivation to act on their own. Clients who believe that they are in charge of their own responses ("At cause", to use the NLP jargon) do far better in numerous research studies with a variety of different models of therapy (Miller et alia, 1996, p 319, 325). Furthermore, research shows that this sense of being in control is not a stable "quality" that some clients have and others do not; it varies over the course of their interaction with the helper. Successful therapy has been shown to result first in a shift in the "locus of control", and then in the desired success (Miller et alia, 1996, p 326). When my client presents using mostly mismatching and away-from language, I want to "pace" that style and then provoke them into creating their own strong towards motivation.
Frank Farrelly was the author of a book called Provocative Therapy focusing on radical therapeutic moves intended to jolt the client out of the helpless, blaming mindset. This approach was modeled by Richard Bandler during the early years of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and Bandler later commented "If you think I'm crazy, you should meet Frank!" Farrelly says "Provocative Therapy is a system of psychotherapy in which the therapist plays the devil's advocate, siding with the negative half of the client's ambivalence toward his life's goals, his relationships, work and the structures within which he lives."
Farrelly initially worked with Carl Rogers' model but began to have problems with the two metaphors of therapy that Rogers found most useful. "Two images that seemed to have real meaning for Carl at this time, when speaking of the role of the therapist, were the roles of midwife and horticulturist. The horticulturist, I remember his saying a number of times, merely provided the appropriate conditions for the seed's growth. In the same way he felt this was what the therapist did to provide growth for the client. And the midwife, another analogy he used a number of times, did not create the person but merely assisted in his birth. I was becoming increasingly frustrated in my work with patients and clients using the client centered approach and waiting for the client to initiate most if not all actions and behaviors. And I remember distinctly the meeting in which finally I vented my frustration and told the project clinical meeting, "I'm sick and tired of trying to be a horticulturist or a midwife. I'm not any good in either role. What I want to do is to pry apart these people's shells, penetrate through to their core, and inject some LIFE into them." (In saying this I was pulling my hands apart, throwing my fist forward, and suddenly opening my hand with splayed fingers to indicate "injecting some life in them") Allyn Roberts, who was listening, chuckled and stated, "Frank, you're so phallic!"" " (Farrelly, 1974, p20)
This story itself is shocking in the way that Provocative Therapy is shocking. Farrelly says he starts from a base of warm-hearted humour and aims to call out (the original meaning of pro-voke) five responses from the client. The client will:
1. Affirm his self-worth, both verbally and behaviourally.
2. Assert himself appropriately both in task performances and relationships.
3. Defend himself realistically.
4. Engage in psycho-social reality testing and learn the necessary discriminations to respond adaptively. Global perceptions lead to global, stereotyped responses; differentiated perceptions lead to adaptive responses.
5. Engage in risk-taking behaviours in personal relationships, especially communicating affection and vulnerability to significant others with immediacy as they are authentically experienced by the client.
We have already considered two examples of provocative approaches in this article: Fritz Perls use of the accusation that Gloria is "a phony", and Richard Bandler's use of the temporary employment agency process (called Logical Levels of Therapy by Tad James) with Susan. NLP Trainer Nick Kemp has modelled the provocative coaching style (http://www.provocativechangeworks.com/) and lists the following types of intervention:
- Confusion: The coach may deliberately mishear the client, or may suggest insane solutions to their problem in order to break them out of their sense of certainty about the choices available. After a time in this confusion, it may be impossible for the client to congruently return to their old behaviour.
- Digital Choices: The coach may present the client with two polarised and exaggerated choices, and alternate between arguing for one and arguing for the other.
- Detail, Detail, Detail: The coach may keep asking the client for more and more irrelevant detail about their problem, until the client shift to seeing a larger picture in reaction.
- Devil's Advocate: The coach may point out the many advantages of not solving the problem, so that eventually the client more and more strongly defends their need to do whatever it takes to change.
- Going Global: The coach may discuss the problem as if it is an example of a much larger and more exaggerated issue, such as their general failure as a human being or their destiny, forcing them to see it as the smaller and easier issue that it is.
- Interrupting: The coach may interrupt the client's flow of thought by asking a series of questions and not giving the client time to reply, by talking about irrelevant subjects and so on, thus breaking the rigid thinking strategy that the client has evolved.
- More of the Same: The coach may prescribe the problem, recommending other places that the client could create the same difficulty, and giving more and more reasons why they should continue with their current responses to it.
- Other People's Eyes: The coach may ask the client to explain what their boss, spouse, or mother would think and suggest, thus requiring them to shift to a whole new (possibly bizzare) way of thinking about the problem. Often the client will then have new understanding of how others' behaviours affect them and how their behaviour affects others.
- Time: The coach may ask the client how this problem fits in the larger perspective of time, checking how old the client is, or how long they have been acting in the same way, and thus create a new sense of the importance of changing in this moment.
- Here and Now: the coach may focus completely on what is happening in this present moment and ignore any comments about other times and places when the client believes the problem occurs.
- Trance: The coach may take advantage of the shock produced by any of the previous techniques by suggesting that the client go into a trance and make changes at the unconscious level.
Dr Milton Erickson, who was one of the original models studied in the development of NLP, considered psychotherapy to be first and foremost a naturalistic phenomenon. He told an interesting story about how he decided to become a psychotherapist himself (Gordon and Meyers-Anderson, 1981, p 167-172). When Milton was ten years old, and living in a small town in Wisconsin, a notorious criminal named Joe was released into his community after a long jail term.
Within four days of Joe's return, three of the town's stores were broken into at night. Everyone in the village was terrified, as Joe had a history of uncontrolled violence, both in and outside of jail. At this time, there was a young unmarried woman named Susie, whose father was a very wealthy farmer near the town. Susie was in town on an errand for her father, when Joe wandered out onto the sidewalk and blocked her path. Joe looked Susie up and down very slowly, and she responded in kind. "Can I take you to the dance next Friday?" Joe asked. Susie, considered the most "choosy" woman in town, thought for a moment, and said "You can if you're a gentleman." Joe stepped out of her way and she went on down the street.
The next morning, boxes with all the stolen goods were left outside the three stores. Joe walked out to Susie's farm that day and got himself hired as a labourer. He went to the dance with her, that Friday and every Friday for some time. And he behaved in every way like a gentleman. The two of them were married the next year, and Joe began helping manage the farm. When Milton considered what to do with his future at the end of Elementary school, it was Joe who encouraged him, as he did many other children, to go on to High School and then to University. By then, Joe was on the school Board and was one of the "pillars" of the community.
Milton said about this "And all the psychotherapy Joe received was "You can if you're a gentleman." ...Psychotherapy has to occur within the patient, everything has to be done by the patient, and the patient has to have a motivation." Erickson's interest was in how to create this motivation within the client, and allow them to solve their own problems. From observing Joe, he had a strong belief that even the most "hopeless case" could change if this was achieved. Provocative therapy focuses entirely on creating this motivation.
Dealing With The Client Who Mismatches and Moves Towards: Solution Focused NLP Coaching
Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) has already been utilised significantly in the field of coaching. Most of the change processes in NLP assume that the client is operating largely from a towards and mismatching style. At this stage, the client is moving towards new responses; new strategies for responding to the cues that used to trigger their problem states of mind and problem strategies. They are ready to create something new. The cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder I worked with in Bosnia-Herzegovina provide a good example situation to explain the range of choices NLP offers. In persons with PTSD, memories of a traumatic event such as a motor vehicle accident may be reactivated by any future events that involve motor vehicles or any events that generate high levels of adrenaline in the body. The person has of course had many other mildly disturbing experiences that they have coped with effectively in their life before (by "reframing" the meaning of the event, and by distancing themselves as they review the event, for example). But in the case of their memory of the motor vehicle accident, they find themselves unable to use these healthy skills or "resources". This is because as soon as they begin to re-experience the traumatic event, they are operating from a neural network (a brain system storing the memory of the original challenge) which has inadequate connection to their "healthy" state. When reliving the accident, they are unable to remember their usual skills. They can only run the strategies that are associated with the neural networks laid down at the time of the crash. The strategies and the state of mind they were in at that time are linked together.
Using NLP-based techniques, we have several choices for getting the resources from where they reside in the person's other neural networks, and shifting them into the neural network where the accident has been coded. The following categorisation of these methods is not intended to be comprehensive. NLP is a vast and constantly evolving field, and these are merely some of the models in use within that field. NLP change processes tend to assume that the client knows their outcome (towards) and is ready to do something new and different (mismatching). On NLP-based coaching trainings, of course, most of our coaches are operating in this stage as we work with them, and the challenge for new practitioners is that often their clients in the real world are responding to change with a very different style.
To summarise the hundreds of NLP change choices, I group the NLP interventions in ten categories:
1. Anchoring (in the PTSD example, having the person remember a time they felt relaxed, get back that feeling, and associate that relaxation with the situation they want to change their response to)
2. Installing a new strategy (rehearsing the person through a new sequence of responses to use each time they experience discomfort related to the original challenge or each time they are in situations that remind them of the challenge)
3. Changing submodalities (having the person alter the qualities of the memory they have trouble with, for example by distancing themselves from it visually in their mind)
4. Trancework (relaxing the person and asking their unconscious mind to deal with that type of situation more resourcefully)
5. Parts Integration (connecting the part of their brain that is trying to protect them from further danger by panic, with the part of them that wants to relax)
6. Time Line changes (going back to the time in their memory storage where they first experienced the problem and changing the way they recall that memory)
7. Linguistic reframing (changing their understanding of the meaning of the events they went through, so those events no longer trigger panic)
8. Changing interpersonal dynamics (teaching them interpersonal skills to get support and meet their needs in other ways in their daily life)
9. Changing physiological contexts (changing the body posture they use to recall the events, for example having them recall the events while doing rapid side to side eye movements or while doing some enjoyable and challenging physical activity)
10. Tasking (Giving the client a task to complete in their own time, in order to produce one of the above results)
All these techniques presuppose that the client knows what they want (has a solution or outcome to move towards). It is possible to guide someone into a solution or towards framework by simply reflecting their problem statement as a goal. Simplistically, if a person says "I'm hungry." I can restate "You'd like something to eat." Similarly, if they say "I feel really lonely in my life. I don't get to meet new people and it seems like I'm always by myself." I could reply "You'd like to learn new ways of meeting people and create a life where you feel more in contact." If the person responds to this statement by talking more about how they want to move away from their problem, then I may simply accept that we have not fully established rapport yet. In NLP terms, any "resistance" to my leading onward is an indication of inadequate pacing or rapport.
Another choice at this point is to use Solution focused questions. Research on the Solution Focused Coaching model (a model closely allied with NLP) confirms that clients improve after questions from their helper which focus on what outcome the client has. Also, the amount of discussion of solutions and outcomes in the first session is strongly correlated to the chances that the client will continue with the change process (Miller et alia, 1996, p 259). William Miller has done an overview of the research into successful psychotherapy, in which he identifies that enabling the client to set their own goal for therapy significantly increases their commitment to therapy and enhances the results (Miller, 1985). Solution focused coaches focus their entire intervention on eliciting the client's own outcomes and solutions. As de Shazer reports, this results in 75% success over four to six sessions (Chevalier, 1995). That is to say, setting an outcome is itself a change process.
Fundamentally, I ask core "towards" questions which help the client shift from thinking about problems to thinking about solutions; for example:
- "What has to be different as a result of you talking to me?"
- "What do you want to achieve?"
- "How will you know that this problem is solved?"
- "What would need to happen for you to feel that this problem was solved?"
- "When this problem is solved, what will you be doing and feeling instead of what you used to do and feel?"
If the person presents an issue about someone else (ie they want me to "fix" someone else or help them to "fix" someone else), I help them refocus on what they personally can change; for example by asking:
- "How can you change your own behaviour so that this person would choose by themselves to make the changes you want them to make?"
- "What would you need to change in yourself to make this person more likely to change?"
- "What would changing that person get for you that is important?"
- "What can you change about yourself so that you respond more resourcefully to this person with the problem they have?"
If the person presents multiple issues, I help them to clarify which is the most important issue to work with; for example by asking:
- "What are these problems an example of?"
- "Which of these issues will, when you solve it, let you know that all the others can be solved?"
- "Which of these will be the easiest for you to change first?"
- "For which of these issues do you already have a sense of what your goal is?
If the person talks unstoppably about their problem/s, I help them pause their running of the tape-recording of thought. I interrupt them; for example by asking:
- "I realise that this is really important. Can I just check... What would you like to get by telling me this story?"
- "I understand that this is important and so can I check; what are you telling me by telling me this story?"
If the person cannot think of an outcome or is confused about what an outcome would be, I ask about real or hypothetical times when the problem doesn't occur (the "exceptions") and about the opposite of the problem; for example by asking:
- "Think of a time that you noticed this problem wasn't quite as bad? What was happening at that time? What were you doing different?"
- "Suppose one night there is a miracle while you are sleeping, and this problem is solved. Since you are sleeping, you don't know that a miracle has happened or that your problem is solved. What do you suppose you will notice that's different in the morning, that will let you know the problem is solved?"
- "What is the opposite of this result that you have experienced so far? Is that something that you want?"
If the person says that they have no outcome but that they have been told to come and see me, I treat that situation as the real problem and focus on that; for example by asking:
- "What do you need to be doing differently so that they don't tell you that?"
- "What would you like to change in your response to them, so that you don't end up feeling pressured to come here?"
In NLP terms, the outcome I am seeking will meet certain criteria. I list these with the acronym SPECIFY:
Sensory Specific. "What, specifically, will you see/hear/feel when you have this outcome?"
Positive Language. "If you don't have the old problem, what is it that you will have?"
Ecological. "What else will change when you have this outcome?", "What situations do you want this outcome in and what situations do you not want it to affect?"
Choice increases with this outcome. "Does this outcome increase your choices?"
Initiated by Self. "What do you personally need to do to achieve this?"
First step identified and achievable. "What is your first step?"
Your Resources Identified. "What inner resources do you have which will help you to achieve this outcome?"
If we identify ecological challenges with their outcome (for example they say that reaching this outcome could harm something else important to them, or cause them to lose advantages that they want to keep) I help them think with an "and" frame about this; for example by asking:
- "How can you keep what you have that is important to you now, at the same time as gaining this outcome?"
- "In what ways could gaining this outcome actually increase or enhance the availability of these other things that are important to you?"
Dealing With The Client Who Matches and Moves Towards: Task-Based Coaching
A series of significant change patterns can be used after the client already has a sense that they have done the change process, and as they think about how to apply their new ideas positively in their daily life. At this point they are moving towards a more positive future and thinking about how to match their new responses to the other processes occurring in their life. Solution focused Coaches have studied the difference in the way the coach asks about the results of change processes afterwards (for example when the client returns to the next session). In studies replicated several times, they have found that if the coach asks questions which imply the possibility of failure (eg "Did the change process work?") they get a different result than if they ask questions which presuppose success (eg "How did that change things?"). When asked a question that presupposes change, 60% of clients will report success. If the question presupposes possible failure, 67% will report that their situation is the same as it was before (Miller et alia, 1996, p 255-256).
A number of studies have led helpers to recognise the importance of futurepacing the changes their clients initiate (having the client imagine themselves back in their actual life using their new skills). This process functions both to check out the appropriateness of their plans, the "ecology" in NLP terms, and also to install the expectation of success in the person's future (Mann et alia, 1989; Marlatt and Gordon, 1985). Allen Ivey and others have their clients write a "future diary" of their success a year into the future. Alan Marlatt has clients step into the future and fully consider what might make them change their mind about their changes, and then has them plan to prevent that. Both approaches have been shown to deliver far more robust change than parallel programs which skip this futurepacing stage.
On the other hand, one of the significant risks of being towards motivated and matching is that the client naively thinks that everything will be easy now. They assume that since they feel good now, they will always feel good and everything will go as they imagine it. Clients who have been influenced by the DVD "The Secret" frequently come to coaching strongly matching and towards, and with no reality testing. Although focusing on the problem you have had does not lead to success, neither does merely fantasising about future success. Lien Pham and Shelley Taylor at the University of California did a study where a group of students were asked to visualise themselves getting high grades in a mid-term exam that was coming up soon. They were taught to form clear visual images and imagine how good it will feel, and to repeat this for several minutes each day. A control group was also followed up, and the study times of each student as well as their grades in the exam were monitored. The group who were visualising should, according to proponents of "The Secret" DVD and the "Law of Attraction", have a clear advantage. In fact, they did much less study, and consequently got much lower marks in the exam (Pham and Taylor, 1999).
This result is very consistent. There are now a large number of research studies showing that "The secret" or "The law of attraction" (visualising your outcome and then letting go and trusting that the universe will provide it) impedes success. Gabrielle Oettingen at the University of Pennsylvania has done a number of studies showing the same result. In one study, women in a weight-reduction program were asked to describe what would happen if they were offered a tempting situation with food. The more positive their fantasies of how well they would cope with these situations, the less work they did on weight reduction. A year later, those women who consistently fantasised positive results lost on average 12 kilos less than those who anticipated negative challenges and thus put in more effort (Oettingen and Wadden, 1991). Oettingen followed up final year students to find out how much they fantasised getting their dream job after leaving university. The students who fantasised more reported two years later that they did less searching for jobs, had fewer offers of jobs, and had significantly smaller salaries than their classmates (Oettingen and Mayer, 2002). In another study, she investigated a group of students who had a secret romantic attraction, a crush, on another student. She asked them to imagine what would happen if they were to accidentally find themselves alone with that person. The more vivid and positive the fantasies they made, the less likely they were to take any action and to be any closer to a relationship with the person 5 months later. The result is consistent in career success, in love and attraction, and in dealing with addictions and health challenges (Oettingen, Pak and Schnetter, 2001; Oettingen, 2000; Oettingen and Gollwitzer, 2002).
Richard Wiseman (2009, p 88-93) did a very large study showing the same result. He tracked 5000 people who had some significant goal they wanted to achieve (everything from starting a new relationship to beginning a new career, from stopping smoking to gaining a qualification. He followed people up over the next year, and found firstly that only 10% ever achieved their goal. Dramatic and consistent differences in the psychological techniques they used made those 10% stand out from the rest. Those who failed tended either to think about all the bad things that would happen or continue to happen if they did not reach their goal (what NLP calls away from motivation, and what other research calls counterfactual thought) or to fantasise about achieving their goal and how great life would be. They also tried to achieve their goal by willpower and attempts to suppress "unhelpful thoughts". Finally, they spent time thinking about role models who had achieved their goal, often putting pictures of the role model on their fridge or other prominent places, to remind them to fantasise. These techniques did not work! And the most successful people did not waste their time doing them.
Wiseman warns that visualising what it will be like to have achieved your goal has become a popular tactic. "This type of exercise has been promoted by the self-help industry for years, with claims that it can help people lose weight, stop smoking, find their perfect partner, and enjoy increased career success. Unfortunately, a large body of research now suggests that although it might make you feel good, the technique is, at best, ineffective." (Wiseman, 2009, p 84). This is because, as Wiseman notes, whether you achieve your goals is primarily a question of motivation; of getting yourself to do certain things. Fantasising that everything has already been done reduces motivation. It is fantasising that you are doing and achieving things that works!
Giving the client real-life tasks to do in their daily life is an important way of futurepacing, presupposing success and preparing for the realistic challenges of daily life. The client needs to be in a motivational state to undertake the task you set. Solution Focused Coaching, developed by Steve de Shazar based on Milton Erickson's work, utilises this tasking very fully. de Shazar (Steve de Shazer, 1985) suggests you use a "scaling question" to ascertain how committed they are to changing. You might say, "On a scale of one to ten where one means you are only willing to hope and pray that this issue is resolved, and ten means you are willing to do anything at all; where would you rate your current motivation?" Note that this question developed by Solution Focused Coaching rates "The Secret" at "1 out of 10" for motivation.
The results can be considered in three categories, which I'll illustrate here with examples of tasks set by Milton Erickson. If the client rates themselves at 1-3 (such clients are called "Visitors" in Solution Focused Coaching), then my only task will be that they come back to see me another time, when maybe they will be more interested in change. Erickson was very willing to allow this, rather than to try and force cooperation. For example, in one discussion (Erickson, 1992, p264) he describes his initial session with a 29 year old man who wet his bed each night: "He wanted to know if I could do something about it. I told him, "Yes, I can, but I don't think you will like it. But you can listen to me anyway." I held his attention, and I told him what I could do about it, and he said "Uh-huh." About three months later he came to me and said "What was that you were going to do about my bedwetting. I think I want you to do it now."
If the client rates themselves at 4-7 out of 10 in terms of their motivation, then the task I give them will involve basically doing what they have already been doing, and noticing what is happening. Erickson points out that such tasks themselves cause change. He says about uncontrollable gagging, as an example "In this matter of gagging, why not be perfectly honest with your patient by telling him, "You really do gag." I know it and he knows it. Then I can ask the patient to really study that gag: where does the gagging really start -in the abdomen, in the thorax, in the pharynx?; where do you get that feeling first? You ask the patient to focus on his gagging.... Ogden Nash wrote a very nice poem about the centipede. The centipede was walking along perfectly happily one day, with all of his legs going in proper order, until along came so-and-so who asked the centipede which leg came after which. Now that poor centipede lies in a ditch wondering which comes after which." (Erickson, 1992, p118).
If the client rates themselves at 8-10 (called a "Customer" in Solution Focused Coaching), then they are ready for somewhat more challenging tasks. In setting such tasks, I tell them that my proposal may seem strange or even contrary to reason, but we are not aiming for reason; we are aiming for change. There are four types of task that I may set clients:
a) Tasks which prescribe practise of a skill, subskill, metaprogram, or of a change process itself.
These are the most obvious form of task. Such tasks are useful when your client is motivated to change, but has no practical experience using the strategies needed to achieve their goal or to live the way they intend. You may set tasks which build on the skills a client has already and extend them in a small specific area. You may break the main change desired into small manageable chunks (with or without giving the client/student the big picture at the start) and set each chunk as a task. You may identify mental sortings (personality styles) which are essential to change, and set tasks which require those sorts. You may rehearse the person through a therapeutic or learning process in the session and have them repeat it at home (what used to be called homework).
In education, this process is understood very well. If someone has a difficulty, you get them to practise the sub-skills which will help them resolve that difficulty and achieve their goal. In coaching, surprisingly, this has not seemed so obvious, but it is just as true. NLP Trainer Tad James tells the story of a woman who came to see him because of difficulty planning her life. He told her he would help her as soon as she could beat him at a game of chess. What do you have to do in order to play chess? Anticipate several steps ahead and plan! One of the most obvious personality trait differences between our more distressed clients and those people who are really enjoying their life is whether they sort their experiences looking for problems or for solutions. Steve de Shazer (1985) and the Solution Focused Coaching school have made an art form of developing tasks which require clients to rehearse themselves through the process of sorting for success. They have them do this even before the first interview, by asking the client on the phone to "Notice anything, however small, which improves between now and your first session with us."
Milton Erickson tells the story of his work with an alcoholic street person named Harold, who came to his first interview suffering from suicidal thoughts and anxiety. Harold announced that he was a "Dumb moron" and could expect to achieve very little in therapy. Erickson agreed with him that they should not attempt too much. However he pointed out that even a tractor needs regular cleaning.... Harold came back the next week having had a bath. Erickson agreed that the best they could hope for was to get Harold a labouring job, and he pointed out that labourers need physical balance. He assessed Harold's physical balance and found it inadequate. So dance classes were prescribed to rectify this. Shorthand and typing were skills that Erickson suggested might help with the fine motor coordination Harold was lacking, and needed for his labouring work. Bit by bit, Harold acquired all the basic skills Erickson suggested he needed to reach his own limited goals. But by then Harold had begun to suspect that he was in fact not so much of a moron, He graduated from college, began dating women, and got himself a more responsible job than he had ever imagined.
b) Tasks which prescribe a solution for the underlying problem.
These tasks can be given to clients in situations when there is an ecology issue preventing the giving of the first type of task. The client wants to learn new skills consciously, but has some unconscious reason for preserving the behaviour used previously. Solving this underlying reason will free the client up to be able to practise the desired strategies. To identify tasks of this second type, ask yourself and the client "What is the intention behind the behaviour that is a problem?" and identify a more useful behaviour which would meet that intention even better than the problem behaviour used to. Set this new behaviour as a task, and leave the old problem behaviour to disappear.
In education, such traditional responses as giving an attention seeking school student a monitor job fit in this category. As a trainer I often require students to "check in" with another student and tell them how things have been, before we start the session. This meets that need to share experiences and build friendships, which might otherwise result in more challenging behaviour once the session has started. Other tasks to set students for similar reasons could include having them write "affirmations" to each other. When students feel respected and valued, they have less need to prove their value in ways that could disrupt the group learning process. Much of what Solution Focused Therapy does fits into this category too, because when people find a successful solution, they no longer need the problem that brought them to therapy. For example, a task often set by Solution Focused Therapist Steve de Shazer (1985) is to require the client to "Pay attention to what you do when you overcome the urge to ....[do the problem]"
Milton Erickson also focused much of his attention on the underlying issues, rather than on the "problem" identified by the person. A twenty one year old woman once came to visit Erickson complaining that she was suicidal. She had never had a boyfriend, and had all sorts of imagined personal defects. A young man showed up at the drinking fountain at work whenever she did, but she couldn't believe that he liked her. Erickson suggested first that, as she was considering suicide, she should take all her money out of the bank and have one last "fling", getting new clothes, having her hair done etc (Haley, 1986, p71). This fling, of course, dealt with some of the woman's problem (her unkempt appearance) without her having to try to achieve anything. But it also let her nurture herself, thus approaching the underlying issue. Finally, Erickson had her practise squirting water through the gap in her front teeth (one of her "worst" defects), thus turning the problem into a skill (see the fourth type of task, below). She was then instructed to go back to work and squirt water through her teeth at the young man, then run away. The man ran after her and kissed her, and two days later they had their first date.
The story of the African Violet Queen is another example (Gordon & Anderson, 1981, p18). In this case, Erickson visited an elderly woman with severe depression. She stayed at home in a large dreary empty house, going to church each week but communicating with no-one. In one room of her house she kept a few flowers -African Violets. This was the only room that didn't have the curtains drawn when Erickson visited her there. His solution was to get her to buy a couple of hundred potting plants and grow more of the flowers. She was then to note all the births, deaths, weddings etc in her church notices, and send an African Violet to the family concerned. This simple task did far more than resolve the depression. When this woman died twenty years later, she had hundreds of friends at her funeral, and was known as the "African Violet Queen of Milwaukee".
c) Tasks which prescribe a metaphor or a puzzling but potentially symbolic action.
Metaphorical Quests are particularly useful for clients who have some motivation, but who would resist a direct request to practice new strategies. The therapist need not have any notion of the underlying reason for this resilience. Almost any task can be given as a metaphor. You may tell the person the symbolic meaning of the task, or (even better) you may ask them to generate their own meaning (known in mythology as setting a riddle). In the latter case, you tell them to let you know next session what meaning they have discovered. You can then agree that they are right about the meaning of the task (after all, it's their metaphor!)... but there's another meaning also hidden in the task. Perhaps they will have found that second meaning by next week.... This process causes the client to search inside for the meaning (a process called in NLP "transderivational search"). As you listen to the results of this search, you can learn more about how they have utilised the metaphorical potential of the task. This process can be diagnostic (it may help you understand their problem more) and therapeutic (it may help the client find new solutions).
Milton Erickson once had a visit from an alcoholic who said that his parents, grandparents, wife and inlaws were all alcoholic. Erickson sent him to the Botanic Gardens, to visit the Cacti house and think carefully about how cacti could survive three years without water. The man's daughter came to visit Erickson years later and said both her parents gave up alcohol after that one visit.(Rosen, 1982, p81). Having a client carry round a photo of the person who set a rule they have been reluctantly following, or having a person who needs to grieve go to the airport and wave goodbye to five planes also use this principle.
However, often Erickson would prescribe a task which he seemed not to know the meaning of himself, and then wait to find out what meaning the client discovered in that. Jeffrey Zeig suggests giving a stone to a client to carry round for a week. The client is then asked why the coach gave the stone to them. After their initial comments, the therapist says "Yes, that's right; and there is another meaning too. Think on it over the next week and tell me then." Many of the tasks that traditional heroes perform are metaphorical in this sense.
d) Tasks which prescribe the symptom or problem strategy, often with a small change.
If you reach the end of a session and find that the person is still not convinced that they have achieved anything useful, you may give them a paradoxical task. The nice thing about this fourth group of tasks is that they can be given to clients with fairly low levels of motivation, because they do not ask the client to change in any obvious or dramatic way. These tasks can also be given in situations where the client's previous attempts to find a solution have become part of their strategy for doing the problem, or have apparently worsened the problem (eg a binge eater whose dieting enhances their craving).These tasks merely invite the person to continue doing what they always did... with a tiny variation. Any energy that was going into "resisting" change is thus converted into energy supporting the task. Simply requiring the person to repeat their problem on demand changes the problem (puts it under conscious control). You may require the person to alter the behaviour in some small way, for example:
1) by specifying a time and place for it. An overanxious student may be required to worry about their grades for 15 minutes at 5pm each day (no more and no less). Someone anxious about meeting people may be told to meet five people in the next week and make a mistake in the first sentence they say, each time.
2) by requiring them not to do the desired behaviour but only the "problem" (which at times means it loses it's "problem" status, because it was only a problem when they were trying to do something else). In sex therapy, a couple having orgasmic difficulties are often required to have sex for one hour each night and not attempt to orgasm. Milton Erickson's favourite cure for insomnia was to have the person stay up all night doing jobs around the house that they had been meaning to do but hadn't gotten round to.
3) by adding some humorous or otherwise emotionally incongruent element to it. One time (Haley, 1973, p178) Erickson dealt with a couple where the husband was running the house by threatening that he'd have a heart attack if he didn't get his way. Erickson had the wife get a collection of advertisements from funeral services and place them around the house whenever he complained thus. She also would add up their insurance policies and discuss the best way to use them. Quickly the husband shifted to dealing with the issues that really concerned him in the marriage, which were then able to be sorted out. Prescribing ritualistically sequenced argument procedures for couples can be an example of this type of task. Another is having students list 10 reasons why they could never learn some new material (that they've been claiming is too hard) before doing it.
4) by specifying the problem behaviour in such a way that it causes the solution to occur as well (a double bind). Fritz Perls was famous for dealing with clients who claimed they could not say "no" to someone, using this type of task. He'd tell them that they had to say "No" to him immediately. Telling a student to make sure they don't think about an assignment they have been avoiding, and be careful not to think of it for the next 24 hours, is another example.
The Wheel of Change: Summary
Clients who seek change present four very unique change styles, sometimes with one predominating and sometimes in a sequence that matches the process of effective change agents in a community or organisation. The four styles, given below in that sequence, are each characterised by a combination of four personality styles (Towards, Away-from, Matching and Mismatching):
- The Auditor (what Moyers called the Citizen) style is Matching and Away from. Clients using it will benefit by careful pacing and leading, in the way that Reflective coaching invites change.
- The Rebel style is Mismatching and Away from. Clients using it will benefit by playfully drawing attention to the fact that they could take charge of creating a better life, in the way that Provocative coaching invites change.
- The Innovator (what Moyers called the change agent) style is Mismatching and Towards. Clients using it will benefit from focused techniques that build new strategies and responses which become models of their future action, in the way that Solution focused NLP change techniques often invite change.
- The Reformer style is Matching and Towards. Clients using it will benefit from being asked to go out into their real life and take action, facing both desired and undesired results of their behaviour and realistically responding to both, in the way that Ericksonian Tasking often invites change.
The wheel of change provides a radically new frame for thinking about change styles and techniques. It suggests that these techniques can better be evaluated by their match to the style of the client than by their match to the preferred style of a coach or therapist. This new frame confirms that whichever style you have intuitively preferred has indeed been successful with those clients who match its strengths, and the frame invites you to expand the skill you have into the other three areas to achieve the same success there. The model answers the most frequent questions that I hear from new coaches after their training, as they struggle to understand why what worked so well in the training room is sometimes failing in their clinical practice. It dramatically enhances the range of choices that you can elegantly and congruently incorporate into your own skill as a coach, giving you a sense that whatever stance the client brings to their session, you can enjoy utilising it to create amazingly swift and elegant outcomes. At the same time, it gives us:
- A model for selecting coaching responses
- A model for assessing where we are in the steps of the coaching process
- A model for understanding each client's unique style of changing
- A model for cooperating in the change process in a group or organisation
- A model for changing the world
Unfortunately, it does not yet give us a grand theory that unites both Relativity and Quantum mechanics, such as physicists have been searching for. Otherwise, it pretty much explains everything. Doesn't it?
Dr Richard Bolstad is an NLP Trainer and the author of RESOLVE: A New Model of Therapy, a book which presents a research basis for the use of NLP in changework. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org, or Phone/Fax +64-9-4784895
Appendix: The Wheel of Change and the I-Ching
The wheel of change is of course a repackaging of the most ancient model of the cycle of change, the I-Ching (易 经). The sequence is understood if you rotate the model 180 degrees. Different action is required at different stages of the cycle of change, beginning at the most yin point.
Kan 坎 ( ☵ water: yin. First just be aware of problem)
Gen 艮 ( ☳ mountain: align with immovable shared values)
Zhen 震 ( ☶ thunder: challenge the system, revolution, conflict)
Xun 巽 ( ☱ wind: gently penetrate whole system with your challenge, use provocative actions)
Li 離 ( ☲ fire: yang. Radiance and inspiration. Immediate action to express the change positively)
Kun 坤 ( ☷ earth. Be receptive of new possibilities and be grounded in realities)
Dui 兌 ( ☴ lake. Creating satisfaction in the wider system, beware the risk of stagnation, being co-opted by system)
Qian 乾 ( ☰ heaven. Celebrate achievement of the change in the whole system)
I hope it is clear that "the wheel of change" idea emerges out of numerous other people's work. I'm grateful to the developers of NLP such as Richard Bandler, John Grinder, Steve Andreas, Shelle Rose Charvet and Tad James, to the developers of Solution focused therapy such as Steve de Shazer, to the developers of Provocative therapy such as Frank Farrelly and Nick Kemp, to the developers of Ericksonian therapy especially Milton Erickson and Jeff Zeig, and to Bill Moyer. I want to thank Tomasz Kowalik for posing the question of how apparently contradictory models of coaching such as the Client Centred Approach and Provocative Coaching can be integrated. I also want to thank my partner Julia Kurusheva for the session at which I conceived the fusion of all these trends.
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