I recently encountered the power of exploration in my work – Not something that is new but it is good to reflect on significant moments that bring clarity to how you work. When I start with anyone I make it a point to explain that I do not know them, I cannot pretend to know their story or understand their experience. To help in my understanding of what brings them to me I will allow them space to tell their story, alongside working with them to explore their story in new ways.
I will often talk with them about being explorers in their own world. We dont often give space to ourselves to reflect on our own stories and create understanding of where we become stuck or where we have repeating patterns of negative behaviour or thoughts. It’s only when the story is out there that we can start to question it to bring about a deeper understanding.
This is done through Socratic questioning. This is a form of disciplined questioning that can be used to pursue thought in many directions and for many purposes, including: to explore complex ideas, to get to the truth of things, to open up issues and problems, to uncover assumptions, to analyse concepts, to distinguish what we know from what we don’t know, to follow out logical implications of thought or to control the discussion. The key to distinguishing Socratic questioning from “normal” questioning is that Socratic questioning is systematic, disciplined, deep and usually focuses on fundamental concepts, principles, theories, issues or problems.
Recently I was working with someone where we did this. Opening up a story and deeply questioning, not only the experience but the way that the experience was being told. Questioning the assumptions within the story and analysing how the story was being told. It is so important to not just look at the surface level of someone’s experience or indeed the deeper levels but to also look at if the way the experience is being retold also needs to be questioned. How is the story being framed? From whose perspective is the story being told?
For me, the lesson is this: As you continue to work with anyone don’t take their story at the surface level, explore it and challenge it, perhaps not the story itself, but the way it is being told. There is great power in that.