You Better Solve Problems Than Cause Them

Three women in a meeting.
Photo by Tim Gouw on Unsplash

“Why did you do that?!”

Do you remember what it was like to be confronted by your parents or teachers when you were a child? “Why did you do that?!” I well remember what that was like: not nice. How you got out of such situations remain your secret. However, my basic repertoire of reactions might sound familiar to you: Denial, evasion, attack. (Admitting was a real option only in cases of ultimate emergency.) Did you know that childhood experiences decisively shape adult actions and deeds? We learn how to speak, think and act by observing what our immediate caregivers do. We imitate, try out and practice “success patterns” until they become automatic or at least almost automatic.

The classic Case of Problem Orientation

The why question is just as much a part of these automatisms as the reactions to it. The classic case of problem orientation. The reason for all those conversations that are potentially aggressive and anything but goal-oriented. Askinig Why directs the focus away from the actual goal and towards the past (which cannot be changed after all). It immediately puts people under pressure to justify themselves. The result is a “chemical” chain reaction that activates bad feelings and ingrained patterns. And this on both sides. For everyone involved, it means a lot of negative emotions, concentration and attention, and thus: consumption of energy. Energy wasted in this way would certainly be better invested in solving a problem. Also, the why-question also introduces the moral-ethical category of “guilt” into the conversation, which has seldom contributed to a solution in matters of fact.

A group of people around a table in a meeting.
Photo by bantersnaps on Unsplash

Avoid the Justification Trap

What can you do if you want to be more positive and solution-oriented? The answer is simple. All you need is attentiveness and a certain amount of self-discipline. And, of course, a little practice:

  • No Why! Refrain from asking why —bite your tongue.
  • No That’s why! At least as important: Do without answers to the why! Refrain from justifications wherever possible (and it is possible very often)!
  • No looking back! Focus on the goal! Persistently. Again and again!
Three guys laughing in a conversation.
Photo by Kaleidico on Unsplash

Give Orientation — That’s the way to go!

Instead of collecting or handing out justifications, say how you feel about the current situation (now!). Ask the meeting participants for their opinion on it. Say what you personally consider important in the current moment (now!), what decisions the situation requires now (!), and ask the round whether they see it the same way. Make concrete suggestions as to what the next steps look like from your point of view, and get the commitment of your discussion partners in the discussion about this. The trick is to keep pointing to the common goal and the associated common path. In this way, you direct the group’s gaze forward and thus away from problems in the past.

About the Author

Photo by Edgar Rodehack



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Edgar Rodehack

Edgar Rodehack

Teamwork enthusiast. Also loves making music, writing and reading.