I’m a natural problem solver. It’s inherent. If someone describes a challenge they are facing, I swing into action trying to “fix” whatever the problem is. Sometimes, they are not even talking about a challenge, but simply raise a topic about which I know something about or have experience and I start dishing, giving advice, encouraging action.
However, truth told, sometimes this trait gets me into trouble. It turns out, people aren’t necessarily sharing their woes with any desire for my help. In fact, sometimes people simply need to vent! Other times, they already know what course of action they plan to take and my recommendations are really meaningless. Plus, just because I have a related experience, does not mean that I must share my similar story.
Can you relate to any of this on either side of the equation? Chances are you are or have been in one or both of these positions as fixer or receiver at some point in your life. Though it’s a struggle for me to contend with, I am trying to take a more passive stance when it comes to problem solver by trying these ideas:
- Listen first. Outside of showing that you are actually paying attention, sometimes the right response is nothing at all.
- Ask, “are you looking for solutions or simply sharing your story?” Maybe with your active listening skills turned on, all you need to do is serve as the listener… other times, your expert advice will be welcomed. When you can, find out which situation you are in before enumerating solutions.
- Don’t judge. Even when you’ve listened well… even when the receiving party has asked for your advice, guidance and ideas… they may not implement them. It’s their decision to make. You weighed in with your best recommendations and they may be great, indeed, but don’t take it personally if your idea was not selected as THE solution. There are many right answers. Stay safely in the no judgment zone when it comes to the way in which the other party chooses to address their challenges.