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Fundamentals of the Diamond Technique

The Diamond Technique is a nice complement to other NLP techniques. It can be used both as a problem-solving technique and as a creativity technique. Its goal is not necessarily to solve problems, but rather to break them down, i.e., to gain completely new points of view and insights that often lead to the problem being seen or understood differently.

Diamond Technique: Level I

Here we introduce the basic Diamond Technique. Later, this can be extended to complex Diamond networks.

1st Step: From the problem to the goal

The starting point of the Diamond Technique is a problem or a limitation. This results in a goal to be achieved. This goal should be well-formed, i.e., it should be positive, concrete and under your own control.

  • Is it in your power to reach the goal?
  • What can you do to achieve your goal?
  • If you had already achieved the goal, what would that mean for you?
  • Is that permitted? ....

At the beginning of the Diamond Technique, there is always a sentence (for example, "I lose at chess") and a corresponding counter-sentence is formed (for example, "I win at chess"). This counter-sentence usually represents a negation of the original sentence.

Here two types of negations can be distinguished:

Negation 1: lose – not lose
Negation 2: lose – win

A first-level negation would contradict the first criterion of well-formedness, for a goal must be formulated positively. The counter-sentence does not always have to be a classic negation - it can simply consist of a juxtaposition of two different moments.

2nd Step: Discovering the “both … and …”

What does both the sentence and the counter-sentence include? This is still very complicated. The next question in of the Diamond regards clear formulation:

"What do the problem and the goal have in common?"

"What do winning and losing have in common?"

The answer to this question requires entering into a completely new dimension of understanding the problem. The client thereby dissociates himself from his problem.

The clear assignments of good and bad are called into question and are made less absolute. This is already accomplished by the mere form of this question, without it having to be specifically addressed. This is an important step towards breaking down the problem.

Problem Solution: Getting from the problem to the goal within the existing framework.

Problem Breakdown: Leaving the existing frame.

In terms of the example of losing and winning in chess, a “both… and…” could be that it is a game in which someone wins, and someone loses, or there is a draw - always a zero-sum game.

3rd Step: Discovering the “neither… nor…”

What is neither the problem nor the solution?
What lies beyond sentence and counter-sentence?
What is beyond problem and solution?

Using chess as an example, it could be that the game was fun, regardless of whether you lost or won. This position makes it possible to relativize the problem and opens one’s view for something new. This position also makes the Diamond Technique a good creative method.

A figure with these four elements we shall call a Diamond. The Diamond Technique consists of creating such Diamonds. After you have fully immersed yourself into each of the four points, you can also go from one Diamond point to the next.

Diamond Technique: Level II

The possibilities offered by the Diamond Technique multiply, if the following two questions are added:

  • What will be made possible by that (enabled)?
  • What will be prevented by that (disabled)?

The question of enabling is known from core transformation. There you ask: What is X good for? Because many things - especially negative things - only make sense in their function. Therefore, it is important to ask yourself what the problem is good for.

The question of prevention - the "disabling", if you will - is familiar in NLP from the so-called Ecology Check. If a well-formed goal has been worked out there, the default question is whether there are any negative effects of the change.

These two second level questions can be asked at any of Diamond's four points.


Begin with a problem:

  1. Determine the corresponding goal (Well-formedness!)

  2. What do the problem and the goal have in common?

  3. What is beyond the problem and the goal?

  4. Determine the enabling and the disabling for each of the four points.

  5. Afterwards, you return to the original problem and the desired goal.

Often it will be the case that both the problem and the goal have now been completely re-evaluated. Then it may make sense to start a basic Diamond again with the new view of the problem and the corresponding goal. But in many cases this is no longer necessary, because often a problem breakdown will have occurred. Typical characteristics are:

  • new perspectives and points of view on the original problem
  • a much friendlier approach to your own problems
  • a significantly increased flexibility and capability in dealing with the problems
  • the problem is no longer perceived as a problem at all (but rather as an opportunity, as a challenge or even as a resource)

Recommended practice:

  1. Choose a theorem for your work and go through the Diamond with it.

  2. Take one of your goals and go through the Diamond with it. Make several Diamonds.

  3. Send your mission statement through the Diamond. Let your creativity unfold.

  4. Choose an NLP presupposition and go through the Diamond. Make several contrasts and in this way develop Diamond topics. At the end, how do you feel about the NLP presupposition?

  5. Choose a problem and go through the Diamond. Make several Diamonds in a network.

Diamond Map

"The problems of today are the solutions of yesterday! Today's solutions will be the problems of tomorrow."

If you add a further Diamond to the left of the base Diamond, the following picture is created:

Now there is a new point on the left, which is referred to here as an old problem (OP). The problem (P) is no longer just the problem, but suddenly a solution to an old problem. This raises a new question: For which problem was the current problem a solution? In this way you can connect more diamonds left.

This ambiguity of Diamond points is even greater when we look at the extensions on the other sides. You can just as well take the “both-and” point or the “neither-nor” point as the starting point of a new diamond. The point becomes the sentence to which we seek the counter-sentence, and then “both-and” and “neither-nor”.

However, it happens that points are occupied twice, e.g., if you extend the Diamond from the both-and point, the old Diamond’s counter-sentence point is also the neither-nor point of the new Diamond. As the basic Diamonds grow, each point will have a multiple function.

The linguistic form does not have to be congruent - but the different terms can be the starting point for the question as to how the terms for the user hang together and what connections there are.

The multiple functional assignments represent both a strength and a weakness of the Diamond Technique. The weakness lies in the risk of confusion and sometimes in the lack of substantive coverage of terms. However, the great strength of the multiple assignments lies in the high degree of clarity of the complex context and the "relativization" of terms. The resulting network makes it very clear that no point in itself represents something absolute.

One can regard the Diamond Technique as a special form of reframing, i.e., as creating a new frame. That is certainly true to a very large extent. There are many indications that the effect of the Diamond is based on the principles of reframing. Finally, it enables the interviewee to see the original problem in a completely new light and from a completely different perspective.

The Diamond Technique goes beyond previous reframing methods. Not only does it create a new framework, which then alters the old image, but it also makes the frames themselves and the emergence of these frames visible to the respondent. The client thus gains access to generating his own meanings - and thus access to changing them.

Practical Tips

  1. Especially when it comes to the question of prevention (disabling), it is important to ensure that the answer has really positive meaning for the client. (If in doubt, you must ask.) So, little would be gained, when asked the question of what can be prevented by professional engagement, the answer would be, “danger of unemployment”. As a result, there would be no visible price for the enabling statement, and the old good / bad scheme would remain untouched. A real price only comes to light when, for example, when “time with the family” is something of positive importance for the client.
  2. The diamond best develops its transformative power when the points mentioned are both cognitive and emotional in meaning to the respondent. Neither as a purely intellectual confrontation nor as an exclusively emotional experience, can the strength of the Diamond be fully realized.
  3. If the existence of both a cognitive and an emotional side is established, then it will have proved to be favorable to work with nouns, that is, with nominalizations. The reason is not only that it makes the notation much easier and clearer, but the use of nouns and catchwords also protects against becoming involved in explanatory and essentially distracting conversations. Experience has shown that the Diamond format is most effective in helping the user to stay with himself and his inner map. The precision and effectiveness of the consulting process is thereby significantly increased.
  4. It is important to give the user time for his answers. It is often the case that a format that has been gone through too quickly usually has little effect on change. Those Diamond interventions that really made a difference usually had at least one place where the user took a longer moment for pause and reflection. One should not interrupt such moments, for example by "helping" the user with suggestions for his answer.