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Getting Unstuck with “4+1”


Have you ever realized you’re having repeat conversations over and over about the same problem? Sometimes doing the same thing we’ve always done feels comfortable, even if it’s not creating the outcome we desire.  We humans are, after all, creatures of habit.

If you find yourself in a problematic situation and the things you have tried are not making things better, you might be stuck.  The Person Centered Thinking (PCT, used with permission from The Learning Community for Person Centered Practices) skill, called 4+1 might be the perfect way out of your predicament.  The 4+1 helps us step back and understand all that we “know” before we decide what we will “do.”  It allows us to capture the learning from everyone involved in the situation and objectively use the learning to decide what reasonable and effective next steps could be.

How it Works

Let’s talk about how the 4+1 works.  First, you define your problem or ask your question.  Next, you identify all the people who have knowledge of the question or problem and invite them into a conversation.  It’s best if you can get everyone into the same space at the same time, but if you cannot do that, you can be creative in the way you gather people’s contributions.

What have you tried?

Ask your contributors to share everything they have tried related to the problem or question. Using chart paper on the wall and letting people add their own contributions in their own time can help make sure the more reserved people are still heard.

What have you learned?

Ask your participants to objectively share what they have learned from what they have tried.  Objectively, means just describing their learning, not adding judgments about whether or not something worked or didn’t work.  Make sure learning is included about each thing that was tried.

What are you pleased about?

Here, participants consider the things they learned and they start to sort into things that worked well and things that did not work or could have been better.  For things that worked well, ask participants to describe what about it is pleasing.

What are you concerned about?

Learning is considered here, as well, but now participants are asked to sort the things that did not work well and describe what about the things that did not work caused them concern.

What will you do next?

Based on what you learned from the first four steps of this analysis, ask your group to generate ideas about what next steps should be.   The “+1” works best when you include who are the responsible parties for each thing you will try and establish some time frames for those things.

A real life example

Our friend, Mary, is a great teacher and she shared an issue she struggles with related to managing her diabetes and balancing her love of and emotional need for candy with her need to control her blood sugar.  To see her “4+1,” watch this short video. 


This post is featured in: BiosReady

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