Being an effective problem-solver on a consistent basis can be challenging. There are two principles that can help with that.
Effective solutions are solutions to problems that last the test of time, and are mutually satisfying for everyone involved.
As a conflict resolution practitioner, I’ve found two key principles that underpin the approach of effective and consistent problem-solvers.
1. Problem-solving begins with you
Effective problem-solvers aren’t born, they’re made.
To be a consistent and effective problem-solver, it’s important to recognize that what you do and what you say matters. That what you communicate and how you communicate it matters.
This means taking personal responsibility for your own actions and behaviour.
This isn’t to say that the actions of others are not important. But if the problem is directly impacting you, then only you have the ability to change how you respond.
Taking personal responsibility also means taking some time to reflect on how your actions, or non-actions, may be contributing to the issue you are trying to solve.
2. Relationships are key to effective problem-solving
Successful problem-solving requires us to have more than one set of eyes on the problem.
When every person involved in the issue helps to resolve the issue, the solution to the problem is more sustainable in the long-run.
Many of us recognize that having a more inclusive approach to problem-solving is important. However, problems tend to raise our protective instincts. They tend to be seen as barriers to getting what we want.
So when we approach a sticky issue or potential conflict, we often either close up, close in, or strike out.
We may close up by reducing our circle of relationships and feeling alone in our problem.
When we blame ourselves or blame others for the problem, we may start to close in in self-protection mode.
Striking out happens when we lash out in anger, or refuse to listen to other perspectives.
Collaborative problem-solving expands our circle. It orients us to others as we look at problems together.
A problem-solving mindset recognizes that everyone has a unique perspective. It recognizes that with our unique perspectives combined, we see the problem differently. We also find more innovative solutions than we could have alone.
Focusing on these two principles sometimes takes a different mind-set and it takes time. It means problems are no longer seen as barriers, but as opportunities for learning and building relationships.