Friday, August 25, 2006

How to solve a serious problem

"A problem clearly stated is a problem half solved."
- Charles Kettering, American industrialist

While this quote has no place in the chambers of legislature, where elected representatives want as little as possible to do with difficult problems, it should play a major role in our personal lives.

The worst component of most problems is the potential for tragic consequences. Many people have great insight into terrible results that could befall those who have made bad choices. These people emerge from the woodwork, for example, when we must make a decision about whether or not to have surgery. They inevitably know many people who have nearly died from that same surgery, whether badly botched or not, and who still bear the scars of their choice to cut.

Especially bad, to some people, are problems that involve other people. These often involve people they don't care about but have heard much about in gossip. These others, it seems, will always find a way to make life unbearable for them.

What those of us who experience this kind of feeling about what others might do to harm us in problematic situations forget is that, in truth, these "bad guys" seldom care in the least about us. Enemies, by virtue of the nature of their position, must care about us a great deal, almost as much as friends. For the most part, the people with the "bad guy" reputations don't care a whit about us.

They don't want to take the trouble it involves to make more trouble for us. They don't want to be enemies because it's too much work.

We might, however, worry that they will care enough to make trouble. Therein lies the biggest part of any problem: worry accomplishes nothing and only harms the worrier.

There is usually a manageable way through a problem situation, one that will cause the least fuss for everyone involved. It usually involves providing a way by which others can get past it as well as us.

That requires us to state our problem clearly, including possible alternative resolutions. Possible answers can even be mapped out so that the potential consequences of each choice we make can be seen on paper before we make a choice.

By the time we see all of our choices clearly, with possible outcomes mapped out, the route we should take usually becomes transparent and easier to manage than we expected.

The key part of any problem resolution is communication. Problems only get worse when communication is postponed or avoided. Talk to those who must know as soon as possible.

No one wants to adopt your problem as their own. They want you to solve your problem so they don't have another one to deal with.

Talk to them.

Bill Allin
'Turning It Around: Causes and Cures for Today's Epidemic Social Problems,' striving to bring problems and their resolutions closer together.
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