Of all the afflictions known to bedevil mankind, engaging one’s mouth before one’s brain (sometimes known as “Open-Mouth-Insert-Foot Disease”) is surely the cause of many of the world’s problems. I too have fallen prey to this malady and my 15-year Solution Focused (SF) journey has not cured me entirely, but it has often served as preventative medicine. (I will never forget the SF training session in which pioneer SF therapist and author Harry Korman demonstrated placing his hand over his mouth during a session to help remind himself to be quiet and let the client speak. I have found that covering my mouth literally to stop myself from speaking has been a great tool!) Using Faith Focused Solutions (FFS) in work settings has often enabled me to help others learn for themselves rather than being told what to do; using SF with coaching and counseling clients has helped me professionally but for the sake of this article I will share how being an SF practitioner has helped me personally.
Once I was having a conflict with a colleague and fellow church member. I wasn’t mad at her, but she was really upset with me and it didn’t seem to matter what I said. At a loss, I wanted her to feel better, so I kept suggesting different things (and kept defending myself!) but she became more bitter and angry. It seemed to me that this colleague, who was also one of my closest friends, was blaming me for practically every area of her life that wasn’t going well. I felt sick, confused, and hurt by her accusations (making it about me in my head). Silently praying for intervention, an SF question suddenly popped into my brain – courtesy of the Holy Spirit. I changed the tone of my voice and said, “OK, let me ask you this – if you had a magic wand from a fairy godmother and you could ask for anything in the whole world, what would you ask for?” I was literally holding my breath, worried that this was my last chance to salvage our bond.
When she answered, my friend’s face changed, her volume lowered, she adjusted her seating position, and then replied in a broken and pleading tone, “For my husband to be spiritual.” This had absolutely nothing to do with anything we had been talking about for over an hour! But at the end of the day, for her, it was the issue that was behind everything else. That’s what she really cared about. My response was to reach across the table for her hand, listen empathically to what she needed to share about her marriage, and offer support in any way she thought would be helpful. With a bit of divine intervention, an SF question had saved a relationship and set my friend on course toward her preferred future.
My parents are in their mid-80s and a few years ago, I visited them while they were preparing to move from their sprawling home of 25 years to an apartment. My mother felt very overwhelmed; she was definitely not motivated to make decisions about what to bring and what to leave behind. After a half-hour SF conversation, she was able to picture what difference it would make for her if she was able to accomplish a few small tasks each day, and she is very happy with the home they live in now!
Lastly, I’ve even used SF on myself! As part of the FFS training, we had to practice coaching with each other. Knowing it would soon be my turn to be the “coachee”, I had to come up with a problem to discuss. Inspired by my mother’s decluttering, I figured it would probably be a good thing for me to start doing that as well. Sure enough, during my coaching session, I asked my peer coach for help coming up with a plan to clean out every space in my home. As the coach asked questions, I was filled with gusto and decided to set aside one hour a day to begin the long-overdue task. Alas, the great procrastinator, I never even began!
A few months later I was very upset with myself for not starting, and when it was time for another peer coaching session, I said I needed to revisit something I had brought up earlier. This time, my coach got me to think about my preferred future in more palatable and bite sized terms; rather than saying I would clean out cupboards for an hour a day, I was moved to start small! I said, “Okay, here’s what I am sure I can do – I will work on cleaning out my bedroom closet, just the clothes and none of the other stuff, plus the toiletries in my bathroom, for only 30 minutes every Saturday" – very specific.
Would you believe it? The very first week I cleaned for three hours instead of 30 minutes! After several Saturdays, I had already organised the clothes in my closet! It just took one more Saturday for me to finish the toiletries in the bathroom, and I kept going! Over the next few weeks, I cleaned out the rest of my closet, basically a lot of rubbish and papers and stuff I had been putting off dealing with for years! The next week I attacked my guest rooms and eventually the living room and more hidden drawers in my bedroom. Lo and behold, in six months, my entire house was completely de-cluttered! Thanks be to God for SF!!!