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Problem Solving – Step 1

MP900387715We experience problems every day: some simple – others complex.  We often confuse the emotional conflict as the problem itself. The emotional conflict is the byproduct of the problem.

Step 1 – Identify the problem and define the conflict

Whether the problem is how I can better my life, prepare for my financial future, or have a significant and meaningful relationship with my spouse, it is crucial that the problem be correctly defined.    Step out of the emotional space and focus on what problem is creating the anger, worry, unrest, or distress.

Who is involved? What are the feelings?

Whose problem is it?  Is this my problem, or does it belong to someone else? We can spend a lot of time trying to resolve difficulties that are not ours. If it is your problem, your emotions will tell you something is not right and you need to pay attention to it.

Whenever a problem involves other people, choose a time and place when you can sit down and talk about the problem, brain storm and evaluate pros and cons.  Allow time to listen without time pressure. If this is a conflict within a family, ask for a family meeting where everybody can be heard. Avoid “you” statements.  Speak instead of how the problem affects you and what would make a difference.

Problem solving includes feelings and behaviors.  It requires active listening, using perception checks and giving feedback.

In conflicts with another person, consider whether the other person sees the problem as you do. Does the problem impact both of you?

In intimate relationships, emotions run high and are often accompanied with misinterpretation and misunderstanding.  Everybody sees the world differently.

When both people take time to speak and listen, points of view, assumptions, expectations and personal perceptions are revealed.

What outcome is important to you?

Is it more important to win an argument, or to work towards a positive and meaningful relationship?  The later requires a sincere willingness to negotiate and compromise. What can you live with?  What can’t you live with?  Are you willing to make some sacrifices? What are the alternatives and the impact it might have over time?

Summary: Recognizing/analyzing/defining Problem

    • What is the problem?  Who says it is?  How do you know?
    • Who does it impact?
    • What are the underlying causes?
    • Separate or break apart if there is more than one central problem.  Identify any substrates of a problem
    • What has to occur for a solution to be reached?
    • Define specifically and clearly. 
  • Remain focused on the problem or task when problem solving versus just feelings. Don’t bring in old history and eliminate unnecessary vocabulary.  Stay on task.
  • Marlene Anderson 

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