Panning for Gold – a key to behaviour change

Panning for Gold

When someone describes a negative situation whether at work, home or with friends, it’s easy to get sucked into this negativity. A possible alternative, having listened to the individual, is to begin by reflecting back a different perspective that you have heard. This can be described as positive reframing, but ‘panning for gold’ is slightly different. The metaphor captures the essence of salvaging ‘hidden treasure’ from an otherwise seemingly hopeless or difficult situation, as a place to begin.

‘Panning for gold’ is not simply about being positive. In fact, jumping too quickly to ‘looking on the bright side’ of someone’s story can offend. In motivational skills, by listening carefully, we can hear less obvious positives in a story, and by drawing them out gradually, in ways that attribute these to the individual or individuals in the story, and then we are likely to get a renewed energy for working towards a solution.

For example, you may hear honesty about what is going on and their reaction to it. Begin with reflecting that back to them. When you listen carefully, you sometimes hear unspoken positives about the teller of the story – their qualities may shine through, such as their care or sense of justice, or courage or patience… If you notice this, reflect it back.

In panning for gold, we listen out for indications and levels of self-awareness. Again, this is usually from the person directly describing the situation, but it could be anyone involved, and indeed anyone who has expressed insights that seem helpful or accurate.

To conclude, wherever possible, we reflect back what we’re hearing about this, because it will tap into that person’s motivation and energy to develop this further as they find a way through the problem or issue.

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Fantastic course [Motivational Interviewing]! Totally relevant, understandable, practical and interesting. I look forward to using the skills and tools I learned. I was particularly impressed with Alasdair Cant. He is a brilliant trainer, knowledgeable, patient, engaging and clearly skilled at facilitating groups ensuring fun and learning.

Youth Justice Worker