Thursday 21st March 12:36

Thinking Skills: How to Solve a Problem

Most people regard problems as a problem in the belief that it is better to be on a calm sea in life than a stormy one. But calm seas don't take you far while stormy seas do. If we can change our attitude towards a "problem" from something to be feared and quickly sorted to something to be welcomed and enjoyed, we will not only fare better as problem-solvers but get somewhere better into the bargain.

1. Dealing with Problems

It is a uniquely Western trait to see a difficulty as a threat, and consequently panic or become angry when a problem arises. In Eastern cultures, problems are equated with opportunities to move forward. In Chinese, the symbol for a crisis is the same symbol as that for "crossroads". Consider different ways you respond to problems:

· do you seek out problems or pretend none exist?
· do you stare a problem in the face or look for easy answers?
· do you relish dealing with problems or get frustrated and give up?

When we have a problem in our lives, it's like a signal that something better is possible. It's an opportunity to exchange the old for the new. It's our chance to do what we, as human beings, are good at: finding solutions, being creative, moving things forward. As Richard Bach said, "There is no such thing as a problem without a gift for you in its hand."

2. The Problem with Problems

People usually respond to a problem in one of 3 ways:
1. they get uncomfortable and wish it would go away
2. they feel they have to come up with an immediate, and correct, answer
3. they look for someone or something to blame.

Most of us find facing a problem a problem. We think something bad is going to happen. The goal of any problem-solving process is to make us competent to handle the conflict between a situation that is unsatisfactory and the change that we want to happen. So, the first stage in successful problem-solving is an attitude of confidence in your ability to resolve it.

"How you look at a situation is very important, for how you think about a problem may defeat you before you ever do anything about it. When you get discouraged or depressed, try changing your attitude from negative to positive and see how life can change for you. Remember, your attitude toward a situation can help you change it. You create the very atmosphere for defeat or victory." (Franco Harris)

3. Take Your Time

Tim Hicks, founder of mediation business consultants Connexus, says that people are born problem-solvers but don't realise it. Our fear of conflict means we rush into solving problems when it is infinitely better to take our time. By being patient, we are willing to put the solution at the end of the process rather than at the beginning. It also means being willing to live with "life unresolved", not always a comfortable thing to do. Hicks says a problem is like a curve in the road where we can't see the straight road ahead. Take the bend too fast and you'll come a cropper. Slow down and you'll make it fine.

The next time you have a problem, don't panic. Don't feel you have to fix it at once. Don't feel bad that you have a problem in the first place. Don't fear that it will never be solved. Instead, be quietly pleased. Embrace both the present unsatisfactory situation and the change that you want. Then take your time and watch as the solution slowly unfolds. 

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