‘Certainty is the enemy of change,’ says psychotherapist Esther Perel.  ‘Therapists bring uncertainty in the conversation.’ We do the same when we help our clients with a change question.

We put certainties up for discussion

Zomergasten is on Dutch television. Perel and the interviewer watch television fragments that have been important in her life.

‘You have to do it in an inviting way’, says Perels mentor Salvador Minuchin in one of them, ‘otherwise they won’t come back.’

We all have our strategies to turn a difficult conversation into a constructive one. But sometimes you hit a wall.

Then you can use a drawing

A drawing?

Yes, make a drawing of the story your client tells you. Then you can analyze it together: your client can see what is obvious to him. And he can also see that there is another way of looking at it.

That is not going to work, I never draw

That is what Michael said. Michael is a freelance consultant, he works in the healthcare industry.

We are in a meeting room at the consultancy agency where he works as an associate. This time the monthly meeting is a workshop visual thinking for change-makers.

In half an hour Michael fills 3 sheets of paper.

Now the 10 consultants target their visual thinking power at a work related question

The timer is set at 5 minutes.

I ask them to draw a question they want to discuss with a colleague. Not as a pretty picture, but in simple shapes, symbols and keywords: a kind of sophisticated mindmap.

The discuss each others’ drawings in duos.

How does a drawing make a conversation different?

‘To be able to draw my issue, I had to think what it was really about,’ Michael says.

‘I listened better’, says Helen, she and Michael often work together on projects. ‘I have a tendency to reason from my point of view. Now I stayed closer to Michaels story.’

But do you actually look in different way?

‘I could let go of my being right’, says Peter, a logistics expert. ‘Normally I am not that open for other opinions when they are in my field of expertise.’

He looks at his paper.

‘A drawing literally creates room’

When you write, you put your sentences one after another, your reasoning is linear. If you draw your shaky lines go in all directions.

I reckon you cannot draw, like most of us.

At least not beautifully

That is an advantage.

A truth in scribbles looks less  solid. Such a drawing invites questions, more than a perfect image does.

And you can easily deal with sharp questions

They are about drawing, not about you.

You also ask different questions

‘Michael asked why I was not in the picture myself’, says Helen. ‘I thought: Hey, that is true’, she smiles. ‘What does that say about my role in the project?’

Okay, you may think. Interesting, such a visual thinking workshop.

But I am not going to draw with my client

I would not do that immediately either, you have to get into it. Do some drawing every day. If you are bored during a meeting.

Or when you prepare a presentation

You will notice it will soon become easier. Then you give it a go with a colleague, or with your partner.

Now you are ready for your client

Make a simple sketch of the most important things he says.

Then his eyes also focus on the drawing.

Draw your point of view next to his

That is where a drawing helps you most. If a client hears an opinion opposite to his, he becomes tense. We all do.

Our brain wants one truth

But if you draw two visions, you brain just sees two drawings. And it can easily deal with that.

You create space to think together and develop a new perspective.

In summary

If you map out a problem together with your client, you get to the core of the matter. You can question his perspective and add yours, without offending him.

And now?

Draw out an issue you want to tackle, and share it with a colleague.

A visual summary, you can download the pdf here.