Saturday, December 11, 2010

The Paradoxical Approach to Problem Solving

(Drawn from The Tactics of Change by Fisch, Weakland, and Segal)

The Importance of Reframing
  • Sometimes "more of the same" increases resistance to change; e.g., a colleague who resents being told what to do will not be easily influenced by your continuing to suggest what she should do.
  • Far more effective is to lift yourself out of the situation and examine both sets of behavior – including the usual attempted solution – as problems to be solved.
  • Reality is only what a sufficient number of people agree is real. Paradoxical problem solving redefines or "reframes" reality in a way that's compatible with the other's worldview.
  • Reframing a situation actually changes your perception of it. You're finding ways to influence the other person more effectively; at the same time you're being influenced as you come to see the world from the other's perspective.
Underlying Assumptions
  • It isn't necessary to find fault.
  • Nobody has to win, nobody has to lose (people who come from a win/lose perspective are polarized: "Either I do what I want, or I'll have to do what you want").
  • If what you're doing isn't working, stop it.
Some Paradoxical Change Strategies
  • Less of the Same: Systematically discontinue a pattern that – instead of bringing about change – merely maintains the status quo. 
  • Making the Covert Overt: Covert behavior has enormous power to maintain and reinforce an adversary relationship, yet we tend to be reluctant to talk about it openly, even when the problem behavior is apparent. Partly this is because we're not so aware of our own behavior and how it contributes to the situation. Use this tactic only if you're willing to hear about and examine your own behavior.  :-)
  • The Tai Chi Method (also called Prescribing the Symptom): Either person, instead of fighting a particular behavior, can consciously engage in it (see, for example, The Donald Duck Cure).