One type of question that solution-focused professionals often use is the so-called ‘What’s better?’ question. This question is a prime example of a progress-focused intervention. The question is mainly asked in follow-up sessions with clients (second sessions and later sessions). The advantage of the ‘What’s better?’ question is that it helps clients to focus on which progress has been made in the past period and on what has worked well. This usually has a motivating effect. It also often leads to more awareness of what works and to useful ideas about further steps forward. To make the ‘What’s better?’ question as useful as possible, it may be worthwhile to remember the following points:

 

  1. Dare to ask the question as simple as it is. Many people who learn about the ‘What’s better?’ question  are, at first, a bit reluctant about using this slightly strange question. My suggestion is: don’t change the question, just ask: “What is better since we last met?”
  2. Ask probing questions about each example. The value of the answers to the ‘What’s better?’ question is enhanced when you, as a professional, ask probing questions. You keep asking until the situation is described so concretely that is easy to see what happened, what was good about it and how the client has managed to accomplish it. Usually this is very useful and motivating for the client.
  3. Repeat the question multiple times. The interesting thing with the ‘What’s better?’ question is that you repeat it often (“What else is better?”). Usually you don’t just ask it 1 or 2 times but, maybe 3, 4 or 5 times, or even still more often.  The surprising thing often is that clients indeed usually manage to mention as many examples as that (providing they are encouraged).
  4. Most clients are able to mention what has become better. You may ask: “but what do you do when the answer is ‘Nothing is better!’ or ‘I have no idea’?” Although these things may indeed happen, in the majority of the cases they tend not to happen. Most clients do need a few seconds and some encouragement but then, they actually started mentioning improvements.
  5. If things now seem worse, maybe you can come back to the question later. EVEN when the client responds ‘negatively’ at first, the question may later turn out useful after all. I once had a client who indeed said, with some desperation in his voice: “What’s better?? Things are going WORSE!” Of course, he and I talked about the problem that had happened. After 10, 15 minutes we closed this topic and then I dared to ask, with a curious look in my eyes: “And are there also some small things that are better?” I was a little surprised when, after a few seconds of thought, the client began, with a smile on his face, to give an example of something that had been better. After that, another example followed until he had finally mentioned 6 or 7 examples. Then he said “So, you see, I am really on the right track!”. I thought to myself: “Gosh, what an amazing question is the ‘What’s better?’ question.”
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