Know, Grow or Borrow: How to Find Strengths When You Need Them

Can you help someone find what they need to get through a problem?

In NLP, it's called eliciting resources.  We start with the belief that everyone has available to them a strength, skill or perception (called resources in NLP) that would help them solve the problems that matter to them. If they are not using that strength, skill or perception, then it's because they don't realize they have it. As a coach or influence, you can help them recognize that they already have what they need to move forward.

Why don't we know that we have something we need?  There are 2 reasons. The first is that our brains hold way more information than we can process in our conscious attention. We have to "forget" most of what we know to think clearly, since clear thought means processing only a few things at a time. The second reason is that we are social animals and we can access attitudes, experiences and skills by connecting to them in other people. We might not have what we need within ourselves, but we do have the ability to connect to what we need in other people. However, our minds motivate us by making us feel more independent than we need to be. So sometimes we forget to look for answers in the people around us.


Understanding how the equipment works means understanding how we store skills, strengths and perceptions in memory and how we access them in other people. With that understanding, we are better equipped to find our own resources, and better equipped to help others identify what they need in a particular situation.


Here are three powerful questions for eliciting resources.

  1. What do you know that would help? What you know includes the memories, skills or states that you can remember or transfer from another area of your life to make a difference here.
  2. What can you grow? You don't need a map to start a trip: you need to take the first step. Ask yourself for a resource or action which will not solve the whole of the problem but will give you a good first step. Action is a resource: we have to do something new to learn something new.
  3. What can you borrow? Someone you know has a resource that would be useful in this situation. You can pay attention to that resource in them to begin to grow it in yourself. You might even be able to engage them in using that resource to solve your problem. Human beings are social animals and we thrive when we cooperate and when we learn from one another's strengths.
Using these questions on your own experience is hard because you are so focused on the problem that you forget to look around it to see more of the experience, strengths and abilities that you have. It might help to write your answers to each question so that you can see your thoughts more objectively and expand on them more deliberately.

Of course, the best way to get results is to practice by eliciting resources in other people. It's always easier to see something they are missing, and it's the best way to condition yourself to believe that when  you are the one with the problem, you'll also be the one with a resource that will open up a solution.



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