Did You Solve Any Problems Today?

I bet you did. 

But I’m not talking about at work, or some task you’re trying to complete.

I’m talking about solving a problem presented by another person in conversation.

What happened when you did?

This comes up a lot in my coaching, especially those coming for relationship coaching, or help in communication.

It goes like this. 

Two people are talking. One shares a problem. The other hears a problem, and immediately presents a solution. Problem sharer immediately gets upset. Problem solver pushes the solution and wonders why the other person gets more upset. Conversation ends poorly. Both parties not happy.

What just happened?

Problem solver thought they were doing the right thing.

They heard a problem presented, and gave a solution.

However, it didn’t make the other person feel better. They got more upset.

Hmm – the answer to their problem *didn’t* make them happier?

What gives?

It turns out that sharing a problem is NOT a direct invitation to solve the problem.  They did not ask for a solution, did they?

It would be another thing entirely if the person asked, “here’s my problem and I need help finding an solution.” But most often there is no ask.

The problem solver jumped to a conclusion that there was an ask, where there actually was none.

When there is no ask, giving solutions can be like walking a field of landmines. 

When solutions are given, the problem sharer can feel:

Insulted, that someone thought they did not think of these answers already.

Annoyed, that they often tried the suggested solutions.

Frustrated, that solutions presented hadn’t even considered the specifics of the situation.

Aggravated, that the problem solver keeps pushing solutions!

The problem sharer did have a response they were looking for, but it wasn’t the solution to their problem.  

They wanted to be heard and feelings validated.

That was the actual problem that needed a solution. Not the problem that was vocalized, but the one sitting underneath.

If this situation like this has come up for you recently, how does the above resonate with you?  Did you try to solve a problem in conversation, only to receive a negative response to your attempts?

And if you’ve shared a problem recently in conversation and encountered a problem solver, how did you feel?

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