Today I wanted to talk about one of the most powerful therapeutic questions I use on a day to day basis. ‘And what would you like to have happen?’
I learned this question, one of the core questions of the clean language approach, many moons ago when I was training as a Psychotherapist. I trained with James Lawley and Penny Tompkins, the NLP modellers who distilled the Symbolic Modelling approach and the clean language questions from the work of David Groves.
So why is it a good question to ask?
Questions direct attention, they cause us to go inside and search for an answer to respond to what we are asked. This question invites you to consider what you want, it’s focused on your outcome. We don’t solve problems by studying the problem, we solve them by finding a way forward. This is the first reason I like the question.
The question starts with the word and. In my view, that’s a great way to start any question. It honours whatever has been said before, it invites a build from where you are.
It is a question that orientates to possibilities. It’s about what is wanted, not what has gone before, or what is not desired. It can energise and motivate, it’s outcome focused.
The question focuses on the person the enquiry is made of. What would YOU like to have happen? In therapy this can be important, because often the focus of the client is on other people, perhaps on what they want, or perhaps on what they have done. This question brings attention back within.
Finally, the question asks about what you would like TO HAVE HAPPEN. Not what you want to do, what you want to be, but what you want to have happen. To me it comes from a place of enabling and honouring connection.
Oftentimes a client’s response to this question may be that they want someone else to change, or life conditions to be different. This is natural, we’d all like to have a magic wand sometimes. When this happens, we can ask, and when…(state the problem that is causing pain), what would you like to have happen? We honour that this external condition is difficult, recognise that it is as it is, and ask, given this is what the situation is, what would you like? We can help client’s acknowledge what is and is not in their control and subject to their influence, and gently bring attention to what is possible.
I often open sessions by asking my client ‘and what would you like to have happen today’. I often use ask ‘and what would you like to have happen’ when a client is stuck, or cycling around the problem or a way not to have the problem that is not creating movement and impetus for them.
So, what would you like to have happen this week? Given all that is, and the situation you find yourself in, give it a few moments thought. It just might open up new possibilities.