The purpose of the sequence is:
To help clients clarify what they want
To help clients clarify why they want what they want.
To help clients clarify exactly how it would look like if they get what they want.
To help clients identify, and overcome unconscious fears.
To help clients move from “either/or” consciousness.
To have them be heard and receive empathic responses.
The Basic Sequence is organized around six questions:
Q1: What would you like to see happen differently?
This is the starting point: what change is the client looking for? Coaching is about moving from A to B, so this is what this question is about.
I suggest asking this question, as opposed to “what would you like to work on today?”, or “how can I help?”, although these variations can be used effectively as well.
An empathic coach can work with a wide variety of answers to this question. I suggest to first empathize with the response, whatever the answer is.
Make sure that the change is about them, not about someone else.
If they mention several changes they want to make, listen and empathize with all of them, track them all, but chose one to work with for the session.
If the desired change is “too big”, chunk it down. If too small, dig and explore to find something more juicy.
Q2: What would that do for you?
- This question is designed to help the client go deeper, understand better their deeper motivations.
- This question can be repeated: “and, what would that do for you?”
- For example, is the client answers to Q1 is: “I’d like to feel less tired”, and the answer to Q2 is: “I could do more of the things that I want to do and people would know me for who I am, not think I am this tired version of me.”
- You can ask again Q2:
- Coach: “… and, what would that do for you is you’re able to do more of the things that you want to do and people know you for who you are, not think you are this tired version of you.”?
- Q2 is a key question that is used in many EC sequences.
Q3: How will you know that you have it?
- This question is designed to help the client clarify their vision of what they want and clarifying what would be the evidence that they succeeded.
- This can be very helpful because reflecting on it starts to make their goal more concrete, more doable.
- In some cases, this question can be skipped. For example, if someone’s answer to Q1 is: “I want to get a master degree”; the answer to Q3 would be too obvious.
- Q3 is more helpful when people have a vague goal; something like: “I want to be more confident”. In this case, it’s important to help them quantify the desired outcome.
- Make sure that there are both an emotional component and a physical one. Example: if the outcome is that they want to be an effective teacher and their evidence is that they feel good at the end of the day, they need some additional evidence. Feeling good at the end of the day is valuable, but it doesn't necessarily indicate that the client is getting the results they want. An additional question might be, "How else will you know that you will have what you want? What other things will indicate that you are there?"
Q4: With whom, where and when?
- This question is designed to help people get even more precise about what they want.
- Again, this question can be skipped if their outcome is too obvious.
- These three questions (with whom, where and when) are not relevant to every situation; use your discernment to choose which one to use.
- Keeping the example of a client wanting to have more confidence, you can ask: with whom and when would you like to have more confidence?
- It’s also helpful to guide the client towards where they don't want the change, as well as where they do want it. Every behavior is useful somewhere. It’s important to limit it to the appropriate contexts. For example: "I want to be happy in all situations." Any time you have an over generalization, you probably will have a sub-optimal outcome. Ask: "Are there times when it’s not appropriate to have that outcome (be happy)?"
Q5: What might you lose that you value if you were to have what you want?
- This question is designed to help the person identify their unconscious fears as well as helping clarify their ecology; what might happen if they get what they want?
- Understanding their ecology before creating change and moving towards a goal is essential to explore; we want to help the client know how that outcome, if it were to be achieved, would affect the rest of their life. What of value might be lost? What unwanted side effects might show up? Achieving a new objective at the cost of something near and dear to the client's heart is not an ecologically sound accomplishment. If the client is not able to see, ask "How will your desired outcome affect important people and other aspects of your life?"
- A different way to ask this question is:
- What good things come from NOT having what you want?
- It’s sometimes helpful to introduce this question by saying something like: “I’ll now ask you a question that might be strange and difficult to respond. Don’t worry, I’ll help you answer it.
- Ideally, we want to get to something deep and hidden. Clients usually start with surface-type and obvious responses. Although we can work with that, the goal is to help them identify something that was out of their awareness. So, the role of the empathic coach would be to ask the client to dig deeper.
- It’s often helpful to offer some examples to make it easier for the client to answer.
- It happens that sometimes nothing interesting comes up in response to this question. If that’s the case, don’t insist, just drop it, forget Q6, and move to another sequence or tool.
Q6: How can you have both? (what you want AND what you might lose that you value)
- If the client found something valuable, you can now help them to move out of either/or.
- It’s often hard to answer, so be ready to support them by asking helpful questions, or giving examples. Suggesting a response is also possible, but only in last resort.
- The Basic sequence is a variation of NLP’s “Outcome Frame”.
- It represents the basic roadmap to transformation.
- Of course, offering empathic responses makes sense throughout the sequence.
- For this sequence, I suggest to stick as much as possible to the proposed language. Of course, if the client is confused, you can rephrase some of the questions. For, example, if some people are confused with Q2, you could ask this instead: “what would be some of the benefits for you if you were able to ____________________ (what they want).
When to use this sequence
- This is a sequence to use mostly at the beginning of sessions.
- That said, as you get more familiar with EC and are ready to improvise with the material, it might make sense at any point in the coaching conversation to ask any of the Basic Sequence questions.
COACH - What would you like to see happen differently?
CLIENT - I’d like to feel less tired.
COACH - Ok, I hear you, you want to feel less tired, you want to have more energy.
CLIENT - Yes.
COACH - If you were able to achieve that, to feel less tired and have more energy, what would having that do for you?
CLIENT - I could do more of the things that I want to do and people would know me for who I am, not think I am this tired version of me.
COACH - Yes, you’d like to be able to do more of the things that are important to you and you want people to experience you, to get to know you as you are.
CLIENT - Yes.
COACH - How will you know that you have it, that you managed to be less tired, have more energy so that you do more of what you want, and that people get to know who you really are?
CLIENT - If I’m less tired in the afternoons, lie down less and do more of the things I want to do, like hiking, doing errands, going to the gym.
COACH - Ok.
COACH - with whom, where and when is it important to feel less tired, have more energy?
CLIENT - Mostly it’s when I don’t work.
COACH - Ok, at work your energy is sufficient, but when you’re home it’s different.
CLIENT - Yes
COACH - The next question is a bit difficult, but I’ll help you with it; what might you lose that you value if you were to have what you want, to be less tired?
CLIENT - I might lose connection with my spouse, and support from her, it’s very sweet how she takes care of me when I’m tired.
COACH - yes, I get how sweet it is, how soothing it is.
CLIENT - Yes
COACH - Next thing I’d like to know is how can you have both energy and support and care from your spouse?
CLIENT - I could have more of a plan for what I want to do in the week when I don’t work, including spending sweet time with my spouse; I could ask for it.
COACH - yes, I can see how that would give you both the energy and the support and sweetness. Are you open to set aside 30 minutes later today to create such a plan for the next week?
CLIENT - Yes
COACH - How do feel at the end of our time?
CLIENT - More hopeful, thanks for your help.