A very powerful question

How would practice change the way you handle this?

Say, for instance, that you are managing someone who is declaring that the sky is falling because the market has changed. Ask that sales rep: "What would be different if you already had lots of practice in handling these conditions?"

Say, for instance, a new parent is frantic because s/he had no idea a baby would be. . . a baby. Ask that parent, "What would be different if this was your third baby?"

Say, for instance, someone close to you has just been laid off, someone who has never before lost a job. Ask that person, "What would be different if you had been laid off in the last recession? What would you know or do that is different now?"

Here's how the question works. First, it normalizes the situation as something that one could expect to have 'practice' handling. We practice things that occur regularly and are therefore not entirely unpredictable. Second, it is a tricky way to ask someone to jump into the future when s/he will have handled the problem and then look back from a position of strength (survivors all have a kind of strength). Third, it suggests that handling the situation is not an act of will or character, but a skill that can be practiced and improved.

There is no shortage of people who think they are in crisis. You'll have lots of chances to practice this question.


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