This question's valuable when you feel that a session has reached an impasse and aren't quite sure how to move forward. Asked with curiosity and sensitivity, it gets beneath the surface of the conversation and gives clients permission to articulate something that hasn't been said before and which may be troubling them.
Paul's client Ramon described the offer of a dream job as the Chief Operating Officer of an international banking organisation: the role he'd been working towards for some years. Paul, however, felt something was amiss and asked Ramon, ‘What is it that you don't want to ask yourself right now?’ Ramon's voice became surprisingly hesitant, even out of character, as he splurged out his fears about his family's acceptance of the changes the new role would bring to their lives. In particular, Ramon was concerned about who would manage the care of his elderly parents, the increased pressure on his wife who hadn't been well and dilemmas about the house move. After this raft of fears surfaced, Paul worked with his client steadily on practical plans to bring in extra assistance on the home front. ‘Pandora's box had sprung open,’ says Paul. ‘My role was to be there and provide a stable sense of perspective as Ramon examined the contents.’