Ok strap in, because it is **truly** my favorite thing to talk about.
When you’re watching a mystery or listening to a crime podcast, what action do they take to solve that bad boy? They get all the evidence – facts, data, any applicable information, which ultimately informs the solution / murderer. So by that same formula, when problem solving within one’s own life, communication facilitates the evidence that must be gathered and shared in order to find resolution. So first, let’s talk about Problems, which I’m choosing to put into 2 buckets: Bucket 1: Problems generated between you & others. In their most basic form, problems are rooted in one thing: misalignment. With a +1 problem, 9 times out of 10 (please don’t fact check me here), it’s due to both parties operating with differing opinions, information, or expectations. True problems typically sit in a tricky gray area; it’s not entirely your fault, but it’s not entirely theirs, but a combination of differing experiences and feelings leading to feelings of hurt, betrayal, and anger.
Bucket 2: Solo Problems, aka The Protagonists Pickle. These are struggles you might be having independently within your life which can also be traced to a disconnect; something present that is causing you to feel dissatisfied or frustrated. Perhaps it’s your job, relationship, or maybe even feeling like you aren’t on the right path; however you slice it, it’s the unsustainable sensation of being stuck with something that just isn’t For You.
None of this can be solved without being honest and talking it out; making sure all parties are having access to the same information (aka evidence). In a disagreement with someone else? The evidence is sharing your experience / feelings and opening the door for the others to do the same.
Problems within your life? The evidence is being honest with yourself about the true challenge or dissatisfaction you’re experiencing and identifying the root.
Or to simplify it even further: 1. Clear, confident, and compassionate communication is the most effective way to solve problems. 2. Gather the data (your experience, their experience), non-judgmentally share, and make sure both sides are heard and understood. 3. Using the new information, re-examine the problem to see where the solution presents itself. 4. Allow this new information to motivate you into being decisive and develop an open understanding of the situation at hand. Have the dignity / maturity to recognize you’re wrong (and even apologize, if the situation calls for it).
Sound intense? It doesn’t have to be. Here is some verbiage that can assist with starting off these conversations:
“I think we can both agree things have been tense between us, and I want to solve this. Can we talk about it?”
"Here is my experience:"
"Here is what I am struggling with:"
“Here is how this impacted me:”
"Can you explain to me how this situation played out for you?"
"It's important to me that we can find common ground here." And of course, when in doubt….
I STATEMENTS! An “I Statement” is the process of sharing your, and only your experience. The benefits of problem solving this way is that it keeps things out of Blame Territory and focuses in on allowing others to understand your personal experience, vs the risk of them becoming defensive. An I Statement can sound like:
“I felt hurt by this. Can we talk about it?”
“I’m having a hard time with what happened between us.”
“I was under the impression that ___. Can you help me understand why that didn’t happen?”
“I don’t like the way this went down and would like to get to the bottom of it.”
Now go forth and Solve, you Gorgeous Detective. Do you have a communication challenge or question? Submit to firstname.lastname@example.org.