A lot of people feel as if they are victims of their circumstances. That the bad day they had at work, the argument they had with a spouse, or the conflict they had at the store was something that happened to them.
In fact, many times, it is something they actively participated in … and made worse.
This is because many of us approach relationships and transactions as win/lose situations instead of as problems to be solved. Problems where there is a chance both people could win.
And sometimes we are impatient.
We can learn how to solve our daily problems by following a couple of easy and repeatable steps.
Frame the problem correctly
A lot of times when we see a problem, we rush ahead to the right answer – for us. Instead of thinking about the full situation, and understand the views of everyone involved, we look only for the answer we want.
We see each problem as a problem only for us, and the solution as something everyone os working towards.
In fact, not everyone wants the same solution we want. The customer is not always right, so to speak. Or, more accurately, you are not always the customer.
This happens for small and large problems.
In the book “Bulletproof Problem Solving”, Charles Conn and Robert MacLean describe the fate of newspapers. When they saw new technology coming in the form of the internet, they assumed they would survive as they had survived radio and television.
So they focused on holding on to their audiences, which they did. However, their advertisers had abandoned them for the larger online audience and targeted marketing. Newspapers framed the question the wrong way, and got the wrong answer.
The same thing happens at work when you approach the boss to ask for time off. You know that your mental and physical well-being would improve with the time off. However, if you fail to explain it to your boss this way, and negotiate far enough in advance, you might not achieve your intended goal.
Use problem-solving trees
In order to better understand how to solve a problem, you need to get to the root of it.
If you have a continuing conflict with your partner, you might want to look carefully at the problem. Ask these questions to get to the heart of the issue:
- When does the conflict happen?
- What does it seem to be about?
- What does your partner seem to want?
- What do you want?
With preliminary answers to these questions, you can start to see a way to a better answer.
Perhaps you THOUGHT you were having fights over the remote control to the TV. But maybe you were having fights about control, and the way you use your time together in the evening.
Answering questions like this helps you get to the root of the problem. Maybe instead of wanting to be in charge of the remote, you’d just rather be doing something other than watching TV.
Use all your resources to solve problems
It turns out that we tend to see things in a particular way – through our own lens. And that lens is inherently biased towards our own wants and needs, and biased by our own experiences.
When our only resource is our own thinking, then, it stands to reason that we can only come to a limited number of solutions. We can only see the solutions we can imagine.
If, however, you bring in additional resources, you have a chance to see new solutions.
That problem with your remote control? There is someone else we could ask for information to solve the problem.
Your partner likely has some important information that might unlock the real problem and help you find the solution.
So remember to gather the available information before looking for solutions:
- Talk to people involved in the problem and simply state the situation not as a complaint
- Ask them to identify the problem
- Ask them what they want to achieve in the situation
- Get input about possible solutions
This strategy can work if you get unsatisfactory service. Just start by identifying the problem.
Recently a customer returned a rented carpet cleaner to Home Depot. He indicated that he had some trouble with the cleaner, in that it wouldn’t spray the heated water and he had to pour the solution on the carpet and vacuum it up. By describing the problem he had, he gave the cashier a chance to offer a solution.
She offered a full refund, even before he could move to other problem-solving steps. This was better than he had hoped.
Not every problem will get solved that easily.
Do you feel like you don’t have any good choices? Or that you are always choosing the wrong answer? You might benefit from talking to a licensed therapist like Sakina Issa.
Luckily, these conversations can happen discreetly and by appointment using the same tools you have grown comfortable using at work, like Zoom or GoToMeeting. Just click the button in the upper right hand corner.
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