6 hacks to create a job you love

Mario  was everything you would expect an Italian to be: boisterous, warm, and passionate about soccer. He was also very articulate and colorful in his expressions. But you would not be able to tell all this by seeing him at work… Read more

The Interactional View of Emotions and Solution-Focus

Following up on a recent post in which I noted how Barbara Fredrickson put forward an interactional view of love, I read Lisa Feldman Barrett paper on the interactional view of emotions.

In her paper Psychological Construction: The Darwinian Approach to the Science of Emotion I found a stance that is very useful to Solution-Focused practitioners and which validates our perspective on change (“action is in the inter-action“).

Take the following: “Our hypothesis is that during every waking moment of life, mental states are constructed as interoceptive cues from the body and exteroceptive cues from the world are continually categorized and made meaningful with conceptual knowledge stored from past experience. […]. In our view, an instance of emotion is constructed when affective changes are categorized as related to the situation using an instance of an emotion concept BECAUSE those affective changes are in the focus of attention […].”.

Changing the focus of attention is key to constructing emotions, according to Barrett. Isn’t one of the main purposes of SF that of shifting clients’ perceptions from a problem-frame to a solution/opportunity-frame?

Also: “Emotions are said to be coordinated packets of physiology, experience and behavior, but every waking moment of life is just such a coordinated package; there is no package that is “essentially” anger, or sadness, or even emotion.” If emotions are not essences but categorizations of perceptions, then a conversation as a tool for change makes a lot of sense: it would not change an “essence” but it would surely change what we perceive and how.

SF is such an effective, elegant and powerful tool because it does not put any kind of label on clients and does not see them through the lens of a theory. On the contrary, SF practitioners stay on the surface and resist the temptation to categorize or to look for the “essence” of the problem. That is why I could not help but smile when I read this: “Progress in the science of emotion depends on whether we can resist the urge to essentialize.

Welcome to the interactional view, science of emotion!

Update on 6/30: The Boston Magazine has caught up with me, I mean with the importance of Lisa Barrett’s work :) for psychology. Here is a link to their feature article –> http://www.bostonmagazine.com/news/article/2013/06/25/emotions-facial-expressions-not-related/print/

Love 2.0 and the interactional view

In her latest book, Love 2.0, the renowned Positive Psychology author Barbara Fredrickson introduced an interactional view of love.

According to the latest research she presents in her book, love is not so much a noun but rather a verb. It is something that emerges in micro-moments of interactions between living beings, when they share a positive emotion, resonate with it in synchrony and build on it to deeply care about each other.

In other words, love is in-between.

This view mirrors the stance of Solution-Focused practitioners when we say that solutions and change and the future all emerge in-between, in the space of dialogue and interaction, rather than being determined by inner drives or outer social pressures.

Seeing how SF and current Positive Psychology thought are somehow converging on this interactional view was quite interesting to behold.

Great intro to Positive Psychology


Shawn Achor does an excellent job introducing Positive Psychology in a very funny, engaging way, and in all of 12 minutes.

What I found really interesting was the first graph he showed his audience.

It highlighted the data point which “messed up” the neat averages and trends.

I think in this search for “anomalies” Solution-Focus shares its roots with Positive Psychology.

As Solution-Focused practitioners we do not hide such a data point.

Quite the opposite. We keep asking questions, and specific kind of questions, until we help clients see just those data points. The useful exceptions. What defies negative generalizations and stands out as a success, even if tiny.

“No problem happens 100% of the time. What happens the rest of the time?”.

I also think this attitude in the DNA of the Solution-Focused method of inquiry explains the gap with psychological research. A gap so difficult for many SF practitioners to bridge.

Researchers deal with averages, trends, statistics, constructs.

Solution-Focused  practitioners deal with individuals, single episodes of “when things are a little bit better”, details and real-world, observable interactions.

Of course this gap disappears if we are thinking of outcomes to find evidence of Solution-Focus effectiveness. But it is there in the forma mentis of psychological researchers vis-a-vis Solution-Focused practitioners.

I just thought that was interesting.


The video above was used to put participants in a state of awe in a study led by Stanford Professor Jennifer Aaker.

The title of the study says it all: Awe Expands People’s Perception of Time,  Alters Decision Making, and Enhances Well-Being.

Thought I would share with you the study and the video to wish you all sorts of awesomeness.

Active and Constructive Responding

In his latest book, Flourish, Martin Seligman introduces very few tools to improve well-being – most of the book is a very interesting and opinionated summary of the current status of Positive Psychology.

One of the few tools presented is called: “Active, Constructive Responding” – and it is yet another piece of evidence that Positive Psychologists are “re-inventing” well-established Solution-Focused practices.

Here I quote Seligman: ” Strangely, marriage counseling usually consists of teaching partners to fight better. This may turn an insufferable relationship into a barely tolerable one… How we respond can either build the relationship of undermine it. There are four basic ways of responding, only one of which builds relationships” – and then he proceeds by providing two examples of the four styles.

I will only use the first of his examples, and I will highlight questions that come straight from SF practice:

Example – your partner says: I received a promotion and a raise at work!

Active and Constructive Response: “That is great! I am so proud of you. I know how important that promotion was to you! Please relive the event with me now. Where were you when your boss told you? What did he say? How did you react? We should go out and celebrate!” Nonverbal: maintaining eye contact, displaying positive emotions

Passive and Constructive Response: “That is good news. You deserve it.” Nonverbal: little or no active emotional expression.

Active and Destructive Response: “That sounds like a lot of responsibility to take on. Are you going to spend fewer nights at home now?” Nonverbal: display of negative emotions.

Passive and Destructive: “What’s for dinner?” Nonverbal: little to no eye contact, leaving

[Note: Seligman credits Shelly Gable, Professor of Psychology at UC Santa Barbara, for  demonstrating that  how you celebrate is more predictive of strong relations than how you fight].

So… SF practitioners out there… do the highlighted questions ring a bell? ;)

I think we would be a little bit more natural in building an “Active & Constructive Response” to what Clients bring: Wow, I am so impressed!! How did you manage to get it? When did this happen? What did your boss say? And what did you say? Were there other people there? What did they say?…