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6 Steps to Solving Problems

Listen to this episode of the Focus with Marlene Podcast. This is part 1 in my series, “Focus on Solving Problems.”

Get caught up with all episodes in the Developing a New Focus series.


There are as many types of problems as there are flowers in a field.

A lot of the “problems” we face could be more accurately described as quick decisions we make in the moment:

  • What will I wear today?
  • What will I have for dinner?

Other problems are more serious. They involve relationships, marriages, conflicts that won’t go away, finances, caregiving of elderly parents, etc.

When problems involve family or other people, everyone needs to be able to voice their opinions.

  • Does the other person see the problem as you do?
  • Who does the problem impact the most?
  • Whose problem is it? Is this your problem, or does it belong to someone else? (We can spend a lot of time trying to resolve difficulties that are not ours.)

Active Listening is Critical to Solving Problems

Because problems that affect relationships are loaded with intense feelings, the perspectives of all people involved need to be considered and accurately defined.

  • Stop, and listen.
  • Give the other person your full attention.
  • Check to see if you heard statements correctly. “I heard you say. . . is this correct?” or, “Is this what you meant?”

In conflicts between couples, misinterpretation and misunderstanding are common: “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

When both people are willing to listen and articulate their point of view, it provides the groundwork to finding and implementing the best solution.

6 basic steps to problem-solving

Step 1 – Identify and define the problem succinctly and accurately.

Step 2 – Generate solutions.

Step 3 – Evaluate solutions.

Step 4 – Choose one of the best solutions.

Step 5 – Implement solution.

Step 6 – Evaluate your solution. If necessary, pick another one.

Think about a problem you are experiencing.

  • What symptoms generated by this problem are adversely impacting your life?
  • What highly charged emotions are attached to it?
  • Who else is involved?
  • Do they also see it as a problem?

What are the consequences of a decision you make?

For example: Who is taking the kids to school today and who is picking them up?

The solution is usually determined by who’s available to do the pickup. However, if family members are not available, the problem can become more significant.

  • Is a neighbor or another parent available?
  • How well do you know that person?
  • If no one is available, what other options do you have? (Depending on the age of the children, options may include allowing them to walk to and from school by themselves. What are the risks involved with that?)

What outcome do you want?

When solving problems, ask yourself whether it’s more important to win an argument than work towards an outcome that is satisfactory to both.

This is especially crucial for couples who want to have a positive and meaningful relationship.

  • What can you live with?
  • What can’t you live with?
  • What sacrifices are you willing to make?
  • What are the alternatives and the impact it might have over time?

Focus on working together towards a similar goal.

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