Motivational, Philosophy

Improving Communication and Problem Solving

Recently we’ve been looking at sayings and ways to look at solving problems.

How many times has someone vented about their problems and a likely response is, “Why don’t you just xxx….[insert their suggested solution]. Notwithstanding there are occasions when someone does directly asks for advice, the act of suggesting solutions to others, rarely succeeds in solving the other’s problems.

Why?

male and female statue in Vigeland Sculpture park, Norway holding arms forming an arch

The diplomat, Dag Hammarskjold said:

Not knowing the question,

It was easy for him

To give the answer.

Robert Bolton, People Skills, [1987]

Giving Advice

We seldom understand the full complexity of another person’s situation. In conversations, we only receive basic facts and have no real way of determining the most appropriate course of action for someone else, without knowing the complete picture of what is going on for them and the associated ramifications of suggestions.

Certain ways of responding to friends can even hamper conversations, may trigger feelings of inadequacy, anger or perhaps dependency. The other person might become angry, submissive, argumentative or be very resistant to change.

Ever wondered why this is so?

Responding with solutions, in these situations, often shuts down productive conversation and discourages the person from discovering their own solution. Dispensing solution focused advice may often be seen by the other person as an insult to their intelligence. It’s implying the solution is blatantly obvious and they are incapable of solving their own problems!

Furthermore, we are most likely to bring to the table our own bias, history and prejudices. What works for one person may never work for another.

Logical Advice and Argument

When emotions are heightened, referring to the logical thing to do, or logical solutions, may only serve to infuriate or frustrate the other person. It can alienate a conversation by creating distance between people for they interpret those words as conveying a lack of empathy or a failing to understand.

Logical options rely on facts, and typically disregards discussion of a person’s emotions. When people have problems, their feelings are at the forefront of their minds. Dealing with their emotional response in the first instance, might allow for some brainstorming logical pathways at a later time.

Diverting the Conversation

Some of us are so uncomfortable hearing of another person’s difficulties, we might change the subject or divert the conversation away from the difficult topic and towards one that is more palatable or comfortable.

Enhancing Conversation

So we know what doesn’t work. What can help enhance conversations and others in regard to problem solving?

#1 Listening

Nurturing the person’s ability to determine their own solution by being a sounding board for their thoughts and frustrations.

#2 Ask Open Ended Questions

The old advice of using open ended questions can help.

Start with How, What, Why, Where and Who. Something that allows the person an opportunity to explain a little more, rather than a straight yes or no answer, which might block further dialogue.

#Paraphrasing

Paraphrasing the other person’s thoughts back to them summarizes the problem. In this way, you might rephrase the issue to check you have heard hem and understood their situation correctly. If you haven’t, this gives the other person a chance to clarify things.

What have you tried already?