Fix it, Give Advice, or Listen - The Communication Acts of Problem Solving

In every self-assessment tool I have ever completed I have gotten feedback on my proclivity toward fixing. Bring me a problem and I will immediately brainstorm a list of solutions. This is at times amazing and at times very frustrating for those I work for, with, and my family. I have worked on self-awareness around this, especially since my day-to-day job as a strategist and visionary puts me in the problem solving mode very often. 

Last week we worked with Hanover Safe Place as part of a multi-phase project to identify opportunities to improve their internal culture and manage the assets and issues that come with rapid growth. As part of that process we talked about communication styles and our own self-awareness around managing conflict and diverse opinions. I disclosed to the group my natural problem-solving state and we brainstormed ways to work with people whose default is one of the three major styles to problem-solving. 

When a co-worker, child, or partner brings you a problem, take a moment and ask: 

  1. Do you want me to listen to you?
  2. Do you want me to help brainstorm a solution?
  3. Do you want my advice? 

I instituted this a few months ago at home and my 8 year old and my partner both noticed immediately and took a huge breath and picked what they needed. This was a wonderful moment of clarity for them and I ended up feeling much more helpful in the end. They both have come to me with different issues and chosen direct paths. But the magic is that I could give them exactly what they needed in the moment. 

I challenge you to try this at work and at home and see how it goes.