The Way to Solve the Problem
It was a simple exchange, and yet it could have easily sent us down the wrong road.
A friend and I had miscommunicated about the time for our lunch meeting. When I text to clarify the time, she responds …
“Let’s chat, because I realize I’ve had some frustrations about when we schedule our meetings.”
Me: “Sure. I actually feel the same way.”
Uh oh. Although I don’t tend to back away from conflict, I sure don’t like it!
I’m a bit surprised she’s initiating this conversation, because, in my world, I’m always bending and flexing my schedule to accommodate HER preferences.
I feel myself getting righteous and defensive. I didn’t like how I was feeling. And I sure didn’t like who I was being in that moment.
I’m not seeing this upcoming conversation as likely to be very productive.
“You do this,”
” Well, you do that.”
Kinda silly, and it wouldn’t get us anywhere.
So, I give it a little time, and it comes to me! So, I text her and say …
“Let’s see if we can focus our conversation on finding a solution. When I read your text or focus on my experience of the past, I feel defensive and righteous. If I focus on finding a solution, the energy is different. I also want to look forward to seeing you tomorrow, and I’m not quite feeling that. Would that work?”
She’s right there with me … and in that moment everything shifts!
We have a lovely lunch, and towards the end of our time together, we look at how we could make our scheduling work for both of us. What days, what times, what locations work for both of us. It takes about three minutes!
So now, instead of upset, we have a solution to the problem. Sure, it was a minor issue, but the principle behind the transformation is the same no matter how big the problem is.
Lord knows it’s easy to focus on what’s wrong, why it’s screwed up, and settle in for a long defense of one’s position on the matter.
But when you focus on the problem, you’re in the negative energy of the problem and what’s wrong … and how you’ve been put upon.
And where does that leave you?
When you simply let go of the problem and focus, instead, solely on finding a solution, it becomes a positive exercise in creative thinking vs. a recitation of grievances.
The fact is you feel crappy when you’re stuck in a loop of dissatisfaction and complaint. It never feels good to “put up with things.”
When you’re focused on finding solutions, you feel good in the process of brainstorming and great when you actually have a solution in hand.
There’s a wonderful sense of resolution and a feeling of empowerment.
But if the payoff is so obvious, why don’t we practice solution-based thinking more routinely?
Well, there are some deep reasons. There may be some perverse “payoff” in playing the victim or being righteous.
It requires less effort to bitch and moan than to expend the time and energy required to actually fix something, so we default to complaining.
But look back at our example. It took three minutes to resolve this issue.
I dare say many of the things that grind at you would be pretty easily solvable if you … and I … would just automatically go to the solution-generating drawing board vs. waiting until things got so bad we had no choice!
Wouldn’t life be so much less complicated and more satisfying? You bet it would.
I’ve done this recently in communications with both a valued employee and a close family member. And it worked!
So, try it. And see how your energy shifts!
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