Pacing and Leading

One of the fundamental things to know about processing is that you would FIRST get into rapport with the person, and THEN you would do something for her. Another way of saying this is Pacing and Leading.

Pacing is basically that you go along with whatever the person is doing at the time. You match where she is at. If she is bored, match her boredom; if she is full of energy, be full of energy; if she is talking slowly, talk slowly. You don't have to do exactly the same, and often it would be unhealthy for you to do exactly the same. But you can always match something about you with something of her's. If you do this smoothly you will both feel that you understand each other to a certain degree.

If that was all you did, getting into good rapport, then nothing much would come out of it. You might both have a pleasant time, but it wouldn't really be a session. It probably wouldn't be anything a client would pay money for.

To make it a session you need to take the client somewhere where she wouldn't have gone by herself. Or at least you need to take her there faster than she would have gone there by herself. The action of taking her somewhere is what is called Leading.

OK, really the client is creating all her changes by herself, so to be precise you can't do anything to her. You can't directly take her anywhere. But you can communicate and invite her to change, and if she follows your invitation then she changes.

Leading is whatever you say or do that is intended to get the client to change her state of mind, get access to different information, find out something new, or see things differently. Usually it is something you say. You might ask questions, or you might give directions, or you might explain something. You might also just change the way you talk about something and see if the client goes along with it.

If the client goes along with the change you are introducing, then she is following the lead. Like, if you ask her to see an issue from different viewpoints, and she starts answering, then she has already gone along with the idea of there being several different viewpoints.

The client will usually, without knowing it, agree to the premise of a question. If she doesn't outright reject the question she is implicitly going along with what it pre-supposes. All questions pre-suppose something. So, it better be something useful that your questions are presupposing.

You know the trick question: "Did you stop beating your wife?" If at all one agrees to answer the question one has agreed to the premise that one was beating one's wife, at least at some point. It doesn't matter if one says "Yes" or "No", it is the acceptance of the question that is the issue.

So, don't ask questions that get the client to agree to something that isn't useful. Don't ask questions that pre-suppose that she is a helpless victim, or that improvement is hard, or anything like that. If you have the choice, make your questions pre-suppose that she is cause and that improvement is close at hand.

You are not going to make judgments for the client, and you are not going to tell her specifically what it is right to do in her life. What you will lead her towards is more general truths: cause, wholeness, positive intentions, multiple viewpoints, more choices, increased awareness, power, love, fun, and learning. She will fill in the specifics herself. You will lead her towards the generally desirable goals at any chance you get, but only towards those specific desirable goals that she herself has voiced.

You know that it works when the client actually takes your lead. If she doesn't accept it then you have to try something else. Nothing very wrong with that. With experience you will learn to mainly do things that the client will go along with.

For example, let's say that the client comes and tells you she has a minor problem:

C: "I am a little down today"
F: "Oh, you felt a little down?"
C: "Yes, this morning."

Notice what happened. First the client puts her bad feeling in the present, as if it is going on now. Furthermore she identifies herself with it by using "am". The facilitator at first glance is just repeating back the same thing as a question, but really what she did was that she changed the time and the verb. She changed it into the past and she changed the identification into a feeling. In this case the client accepts the question and its premise and demonstrates it by also talking about the feeling in the past. And that might be all that needs to be done on that issue, she no longer has it, and we can go on to something else.

However, if the client had said as an answer: "Yes, I am depressed and I want to kill myself", well, then the lead didn't work and we would need to think of something better. At any rate, that was a quick and dirty attempt. Generally speaking you wouldn't try to brush off the client's feelings that easily. Finding out more about why and how she feels "down" would probably provide material for a much deeper change. But sometimes if you are in a hurry it might be useful with some tricks that might change things instantly.

Leading is based on pacing. You can't expect to lead without being in rapport. And pacing is one of the surest ways of being in rapport. But if you know that you and the client are in good rapport you can often lead directly. You can ask a question out of the blue that takes the client somewhere new without even going into where she is at now.

Pacing is more than just rapport. Pacing is that you specifically match the configuration of the issue you are going to work on. It strengthens the rapport, but more importantly it lets you know if you are on the right track. It is kind of a way of reading back to the client what she communicated to see if she agrees that that was it.

C: "If makes me really upset when my husband comes home late"
F: "OK, so your husband comes home late, and that makes you upset?"
C: "Exactly, I don't know what to do with him"

Here the facilitator basically repeated back what she heard the client say. She didn't change anything in terms of time, who is cause, what is going on, etc. Preferably she used the same voice tone and tempo as the client. The client confirms that it was a correct representation of what she said. That makes her feel that she is being understood, and it tells you that you are matching her issue. If instead she said:

C: "No, no, I am getting upset when he hasn't come home yet"

that would tell you what to change in order to pace her correctly:

F: "Oh, so you are waiting for him, and that makes you upset?"
C: "Right"

It is OK to try multiple times before you get what it is she is telling you. If you don't get it right you just listen to the feedback and adjust what you are saying accordingly. If you get it right the client will agree and look satisfied.

Once you have been able to pace the client's situation, then you can think of leading it to something else. The client above could probably benefit from realizing that she is cause over how she feels. If you just told her that, she would probably reject it. It would be too steep a change. However, you can go in that direction by pre-supposing her cause in your questions in a subtle way:

F: "What is it about waiting that gets you upset?"
C: "I get more and more angry"
F: "How do you do that?"
C: "I think about what might have happened to him"
F: "You make pictures of it?"
C: "Yes"
F: "Where are they?"
C: "Eh .. right in front, I think"
F: "Are they big or small?"
C: "Big"
F: "OK, so you make big pictures right in front of you of something happening to your husband. That is how you get yourself to be angry?"
C: "Yes, I guess that is what I do"

You have made her admit to a certain degree that she is causing the feeling, and you made her realize how. That was something you lead her to. Then you feed back to her what you find to check if that is pacing what she now knows about it. She agrees, so you've brought her to a new level of awareness about it. You haven't changed the actual issue yet, that would be next. You could re-experience the pictures as incidents, or you could get her to make some more useful pictures, or you could reframe the whole thing to mean that she really loves him. All of which would be leads based on having paced where she is at.

Pacing and leading is an A to B kind of thing. The pacing establishes where we are at, point A. Then we set our sights on a more desirable point B. The facilitator leads and maybe the client follows. In a series of steps or attempts we would continuously shoot towards point B, and if we notice the feedback and we keep working on it, we will get there.

You can make people change without being conscious of doing this. However, you probably won't be as effective. You could for example have a list of useful leads on a piece of paper and just fire them off to the person without finding out where she is at. Some of them will probably bite and she will get something out of it. To some degree we are doing that with any general processes, like in our prepared modules. We give questions and directions without having established the starting point. If the client had something specific in mind she wanted handled, that approach would not be very effective. But if she didn't have anything special in mind she would probably expand her view into some new areas which would be beneficial.

Processes with starting and ending points are almost always preferable to general open ended process, when they are available. So, if the client has something specific going on and we can find out what it is and then transform it into something better -- that is better change than if we just deliver a general process from a list and ignore her issue.

By the way, you can lead in non-verbal ways also, you don't necessarily have to talk. For example, if somebody is breathing fast and agitatedly and you pace their breathing, and then you slow your breathing down, then the person might follow. A slower breathing would make them more relaxed. You don't have to say a word to do that, you just breathe.

First establish with the client where she is at.

Then show her the way to a place with more choice.


- Make an illustration of Pacing and Leading.

- Strike up a conversation with anybody. Discover something that they are doing or an opinion they hold. Feed it back to them how you understand it until they appear satisfied that you have understood. Then suggest a different viewpoint or action to them. Notice if they follow your lead.

- Trainer simulates situations or problems she has. Student needs to pace it to the trainer's satisfaction and then provide a lead to another way of looking at it until the trainer feels like following the lead. Repeat until the student is comfortable in pacing and leading.

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