Problems, problems… be it home or workplace, life is full of them. Whenever there is a problem, the most common thing people tend to do is
1. Get afraid or uncomfortable and wish it would go away
2. Feeling that they have to come up with an answer and it has to be the right answer so they end up getting confused and disturbed.
3. Looking for someone to blame. Being faced with a problem becomes a problem. And that's a problem because, in fact, there are always going to be problems!
The reason we don't feel comfortable dealing with conflict is because a feeling of something-bad going to happen plagues us. Little do we know that the goal of a good problem-solving process is to make us competent enough to tackle problems.
There are two important things to remember about problems and conflicts: they happen all the time. Any relationship, be it personal or professional is bound to have problems. Problems are nothing but opportunities to improve the system and the relationships. If you look at problems under this light, then you will not get worried about dealing with a problem.
The most common mistake in problem solving is trying to find a solution right away. That's a mistake because it tries to put the solution at the beginning of the process, when what we need is a solution at the end of the process.
1. Identify The Issues.
Be clear about what the problem is. Remember that different people might have different views of what the issues are. Everybody is entitled to hold his or her opinion.
2. Understand Everyone's Interests.
This is a critical step that is usually missing. Interests are the needs that you want satisfied by any given solution. We often ignore our true interests as we become attached to one particular solution. The best solution is the one that satisfies everyone's interests. This is the time for active listening. Put down your differences for a while and listen to each other with the intention to understand. Separate the naming of interests from the listing of solutions.
3. List The Possible Solutions (Options)
This is the time to do some brainstorming. There may be lots of room for creativity. Separate the listing of options from the evaluation of the options.
4. Evaluate The Options.
What are the pluses and minuses? Honestly! Separate the evaluation of options from the selection of options.
5. Select An Option Or Options.
What's the best option, in the balance? Is there a way to combine a number of options together for a more satisfactory solution?
6. Document The Agreement(S).
Don't rely on memory. Writing it down will help you think through all the details and implications.
7. Agree On Contingencies, Monitoring, And Evaluation.
Conditions may change. Make contingency agreements about foreseeable future circumstances. How will you monitor compliance and follow-through? Create opportunities to evaluate the agreements and their implementation.Like you could say, "Let's try it this way for three months and then look at it."
Effective problem solving does take some time and attention more of the latter than the former. Take it right and you'll find yourself in good shape for the straightaway that follows. Take it too fast and you may not be in as good shape. Working through this process is not always a strictly linear exercise. You may have to cycle back to an earlier step. For example, if you're having trouble selecting an option, you may have to go back to thinking about the interests.
The more difficult and important the problem, the more helpful and necessary it is to use a disciplined process. If you're just trying to decide where to go out for lunch, you probably don't need to go through these seven steps! Don't worry if it feels a bit unfamiliar and uncomfortable at first. You'll have lots of opportunities to practice because life never ceases to have problems!
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