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Strategy elicitation

Whether you're eliciting your own strategies or strategies that another person uses, the best time for strategy elicitation is usually right at the time it's being run.

One of the reasons why this is so is the fact that the person running the strategy will have full and vivid access to the Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic, Olfactory and Gustatory representations which make up the strategy and of the way they are sequenced.

If you're unable to elicit the strategy right at the time it's being run then the next best source for strategy elicitation is a past vivid experience, ideally of the last time you (or the person you're eliciting from) ran that strategy.

Start by identifying the last time that strategy was run and then use the following simple script to assist the person to vividly imagine returning to that specific time in such a way as to access the fullest possible sensory recovery of that experience:-

'As you go back to that time now I want you to step into your body, see what you saw at the time, hear the sounds around you and really feel the all the feelings of being right there 'x'ing*'

* Replace 'x'ing with a brief description of what the person was doing i.e. making that purchase or getting really mad or whatever the subject of the strategy happens to be.

Once they have fully associated into that past vivid experience the next step is to begin to elicit the strategy with the following question:-

'What's the very first thing that has to happen so that you know it's time to x?'

To ensure that the answer to the question includes the required sensory specific information, questions of the following type are useful:-

Was it something that you saw?

Was it a sound that you heard or something that somebody said to you or something you said to yourself?

Was it a feeling that you had somewhere in your body?

Or a particular scent or the taste of something?

Be sure to ask all four questions to avoid overtly prompting the person to favour a particular sensory input to the exclusion of the others and hence contaminating the response. For example, asking only if it was something that the person saw could well result in them only paying attention to that particular sensory input in order to answer the question, to the exclusion of their other sensory inputs. If the most important sensory input for that step of the strategy was a sound or a feeling then your focused question could yield an inappropriate or incorrect answer.

Once you get the first step note it down using the notation described on the previous page and then move on to the second step with further questions i.e. What was the second thing that happened? or What happened next?

Continue the process to elicit each step of the strategy and, ideally, the exit point of the strategy* i.e. the completion of the purchase for a buying strategy or successfully putting off doing something until later for a procrastination strategy.

*Some strategies fail because they don't have an exit point - they simply loop round and round until they eventually break down somewhere in the middle.

Once you've completed the strategy elicitation process you should feel free to repeat the process as many times as you need to ensure that your elicitation is accurate.

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