New perspectives through the system board

Unresolved conflicts are not good in the long term. However, it is often simply not possible to recognize the causes and solutions from your own perspective. Imagine you are standing in a labyrinth. It is difficult to find your way. If you had a camera drone that showed you the labyrinth from above, including your location, the solution to the problem would be very simple. Conflicts often take the form of a labyrinth of relationships in different systems. Systems such as family, work, circle of friends or neighborhood. The system board is a particularly powerful tool for visualizing these systems and giving your clients a new perspective on things. It can have an effect on the observer like a camera drone in a labyrinth.

In this article, we give you an overview of what you can do with the system board and in which cases you should also exercise caution and sensitivity.

Translated with (free version)
Neue Perspektiven durch das Systembrett

Unresolved conflicts are not good in the long run. However, the causes and possible solutions are often simply not recognizable from one's own perspective. Imagine you are in the labyrinth. It's hard to find the way. If you had a camera drone that shows you the maze from above, including your location, solving the problem is very simple. Conflicts often take the form of a labyrinth of relationships in different systems. Systems such as family, work, circle of friends or neighborhood. The system board is a particularly powerful tool for making these systems clear and giving your clients a new perspective on things. It can have an effect like the camera drone in the maze for the viewer.

In this article we give you an overview of what you can do with the system board and in which cases you should also be careful and sensitive.

What does working with the system board bring?

The system board can make hidden conflicts visible, forces your clients to take the perspective of others and shows hierarchies in the system. Solutions are found by the client himself by working with the board and by asking the coach specific questions.

In the different systems in which we all move, three factors always play an important role:

1. Binding

How close is the bond between two people? (e.g. mother to child, boss to employees, friends among themselves, ...)

2. Balance

Balance is important. Giving and taking must be balanced and both must be learned.

3rd order

How is the hierarchy structured in the system and why? Does everyone feel in the right place? (If the trained It specialist is used in the company as a window cleaner, this is rarely the most sensible solution for the entire system.)

The system board can help you with:

  • conflicts in the family
  • Quarrels and stress in the company
  • Optimization of hierarchies
  • Achievement of personal goals such as success, health, balance
  • Finding obstacles or hidden resources
  • understanding of other people

You should be careful with:

  • trauma patients
  • abuse cases
  • children especially!

With the system board we go very deep in conflicts and sometimes flush a lot of repressed feelings to the surface. We get down to business in a solution- and goal-oriented manner. This approach is not the right one for every problem! You should consider beforehand whether working with this tool really makes sense.

What makes a good system board?

A good system board has the largest possible selection of different, neutral game figures and blocks. Different sizes and colors are helpful. Cords can also support the work. With a board that can be divided, ditches that gape between different parties can be made clearly visible.

How is the work with the system board going?

At the beginning there is of course the preliminary talk, in which you can already get a rough picture of the problems and important people in your client's life. In order to obtain as much relevant information as possible, you let your counterpart speak freely and steer them in the desired direction by asking specific questions.

After you have gained an overview, ask your client what their goal is. What does he or she want to achieve?

Once the goal is formulated, offer to work on solving the problem if he or she wishes. 'Shall we work on this together?'

In the next step you ask your client to ask the system a question. This question should be as solution-oriented as possible and not formulated negatively. Questions like "How can I reach xy?" or "How do I get respect in my professional life?" are aimed at finding a solution. "Why doesn't anyone like me?" Is formulated very negatively and is not helpful.

After the question has been clarified, ask your client to select appropriate figures for the relevant people. Because you can choose between different sizes and colors, the first hierarchies become clear in this step and you are given ideas for questions. For example, you ask why the client represents himself with a smaller figure than his partner or boss. Don't get ahead of yourself, just be interested and attentive. Your job is just to make the other person think and dust off the path to the solution.

In the first selection, only a few relevant figures should be chosen, which are placed on the edge at the beginning. Recall the target question that was formulated in the preliminary talk. If you notice that an additional person is missing during the course, they can always be brought in. Be as minimalist as possible!

When all pieces are chosen, ask your client to set up their system on the board. The distances and perspectives of the figures among each other already make the bonds and relationships visible. Here again you have points of contact for specific questions (“Why is person xy not looking at you/is far away/...?”). With divisible boards, deeper trenches in the system can also be made clear in this phase.

Give your client time to adjust everything until he or she is satisfied. Now you ask the important question: "What do you notice?"

You'll be amazed how far this little question can lead. Now the client thinks about why their figure is the smallest/biggest, why certain figures are further away and on whom the eyes are directed. Your client may now, for the first time, have a whole new perspective on the system that surrounds him or her. It is not uncommon for the first solutions to problems to be identified in this phase.

After presenting your own view or feeling of the situation, let your client take the view of the other members of the system. "How does XY feel about being looked at by everyone/ standing further away...?"

Notice when characters are facing and looking at each other. There is often a need to speak here. Ask what your client has to say to the person or how he or she is feeling. You can then bring in a change of perspective and ask what your client's counterpart would like or how they feel.

In the course of the coaching, the figures will move across the board until a satisfactory solution has been found for your client and, if possible, his environment. For example, the ideal setting for a family should be that both parents stand together with the children in the middle in front of them. All figures face forward in the same direction. The look shows that everyone in the family system is looking towards a common future.

Since our systems all work differently, there is of course no universal goal. The goal is usually correct if it feels good for everyone involved.

Along the way you can be creative together. Exchange figures, add some or change the direction of view. In this way you support your clients in putting the pieces of the puzzle together and exploring different scenarios in a playful way.

Not only people get their place on the system board, problems, hurdles and solutions are also visualized

To implement a problem setup with the system board, you proceed in a similar way to the normal system setup. However, it gets a bit more creative, since not only people, but also problems and solutions or obstacles are assigned individual characters. It makes sense not to use the normal figures, but rather, for example, square stones that are in the way as obstacles.

A typical basic setup when dealing with special problems is as follows:

  1. Choose the character of the client
  2. Determine the target figure (also write down the target on a piece of paper)
  3. Bring in character for an overlooked (unknown) resource
  4. An obstacle block (this does not necessarily have to be defined in more detail, in the course the obstacle will be given a name, e.g. fear, inhibitions, excessive demands,...)
  5. A figure that is representative of the task at hand, so that the goal can be achieved. (e.g. have more trust in Xy. Do certain things regularly, ...)
  6. A figure represents the secondary gain. This means the profit that stands in the way of the goal. (e.g., wanting to be liked by everyone and always being there to get affection, while ignoring one's own deeper needs.)

You can now work creatively with this list:

  • "What if the obstacle weren't there?"
  • "Who could help clear away obstacles?"
  • "What resources can be accessed?"

Don't have a system board yet?

As you can see, the system board is a powerful tool for uncovering and working on problems and grievances in your clients' network of relationships. In our shop you will find a particularly versatile family board, which can even be divided to simulate ditches and offers you a wide selection of figures in various sizes, shapes and colors to illustrate the systems. We have also packed colored strings for you, which can help you to show bonds between individual people in the system or to divide the board into different zones. Here is the system board!

ideen.kollektiv system board / family board

For absolute newbies, we have produced a video course that gives you step-by-step instructions for your first constellations. Here is the basic course!

Video course Philipp Bandholtz

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