Helping Heuristics

Duration: 30 min - 1 hour
Difficulty Level: Hard
Group Size: < 50
Level of interaction: High
Multilanguage fit: No
Preparation Time: Medium
Purpose: Knowledge Construction
Type of Online Events: Webinar, Workshop

Progressive methods for helping others and asking for help

Heuristics are structures that signal important elements to consider when entering a new situation. They are a tool to simultaneously develop deeper insight and help to respond with a quick decision-making attitude. This method is based on short exchanges that reveal effective heuristics.

Use this method to:

  • Avoid common traps when giving and asking for help.
  • Change unwanted giving help patterns that include: premature solutions, unneeded advice; adding pressure to force use of advice; moving to next steps too quickly; trying too hard not to over-help.
  • Change unwanted asking for help patterns that include: mistrusting, not sharing the real problem; accepting help without ownership; looking for validation, not help; resenting not getting enough.
  • Improve inter-professional coordination in any professional group.

Steps to apply this method:


  • You are invited to view all human interactions as offers that are accepted or blocked
  • You are invited to act, react to or observe patterns of interaction.
  • You are invited to reflect on your own pattern as well as shifting how you ask, offer, and receive help.
  • Everyone has one of three possible roles (it is a good idea to switch roles as the learning activity progresses). Form groups of three: a pair interacting (client and coach) plus one observer.


  1. Present the learning activity and the procedure, including topic, timing using some instructional slides.
  2. present the roles that should be played in groups: client, coach and observer.
  3. Create groups of three people and assign them into break-out rooms. Three rounds of interaction are planned, through which learners are changing role.
  4. Instruct the groups to use 2 minutes of improvised interactions, followed by 5 minutes of debrief. The client shares a challenge they are passionate about. While the observer pays close attention, the coach responds in the following pattern:
  • Quiet Presence: the coach accepts all offers, and listens compassionately.
  • Guided Discovery: the coach accepts all offers, and guides an inquiry for mutual discoveries.
  • Loving Provocation: the coach interjects advice, accepting and blocking offers as needed.
  • Process Mindfulness: coach and client accept all offers, working at the top of their intelligence. They should notice how novel possibilities are amplified by this mental approach.

Focus on the Client finding their own solutions (self-discovery process)

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