Problem Solving 101

“Don’t fight the problem, decide it!”  (George C. Marshall)

Yet another sayings that was featured on one of my favorite blog – Jack’s Winning Words

I’ve read elsewhere that when people and animals are suddenly confronted by danger – by a problem – they usually have one of two reactions fight or flight. The reactive response is either to turn and face the issue with an offensive move of your own – to fight – or to turn away and run away from the problem – to take flight as a defensive measure.

There is a difference in the reaction that George Marshall is supporting in today’s little quote. He is not espousing and aggressive, belligerent fight as the solution; nor is he recommending that you run a away and avoid the problem.  By saying “decide it”, he is telling us to use an intelligent approach to the problem. Understand it. Evaluate it. Seek alternative solutions to it, Pick the best alternative. Implement the best solution. Evaluate the results. Choose another solution if the first didn’t work and keep trying. In other words – decide it.

Many of us (I plead guilty to this all too often) just try to let the problem sit there, in hopes that it will eventually go away. That is a form of denial and it solves nothing. In some cases the problem actually gets bigger that longer it’s allowed to go unresolved. That strategy is a form of flight because circling a problem over and over s is as much running away from it as turning your back on it is.

One thing that I’ve finally realized after way too many years is that the problems that we perceive just get bigger than they really are in our own imaginations if we circle around and around them. Worrying and worrying about all of the things that could go wrong if you confront a problem just seems to feed it and make it look bigger. We must eventually turn and face it; but at least we can do so intelligently.

Over the span of a career in the IT technology and services industry, I had the opportunity to take many sales training courses. One of he best was at Xerox during my last foray back into that world. At that course they stressed a technique for dealing with objections (problems) that they reduced to a cute little four letter memory device – CPRT. Those four letters stand for – Clarify, Paraphrase, Respond, Test. I liked that little device enough that I had rubber bracelets with CPRT embossed into them made for my classmates.

CPRT breaks down this way. First you try to Clarify what the problem is. Often it is a lack of clarity about some issue that is at the heart of the problem. Once you have agreement that you understand what the problem is you Paraphrase it back – putting it in your own words and getting agreement with whomever you need to that you have in fact captured the issues. Next you Respond to the problem; you suggest a solution. Finally you Test for whether your response is, in fact, a solution – If I do what I’ve just suggested, will that fix things?

Many times, especially in relationships; once you have clarified the problem and paraphrased it back, your best response may well be an apology. Perhaps the problem was one that you caused with some remark or some slight, real or imagined that you didn’t realize. An apology can defuse many situations. Some times; however, the hurt was so deep, the split so complete, the problem so large, that a simple apology will not fix it. In those cases it is often best to back off and let time work its magic. Time doesn’t necessarily heal all wounds, but it does take the sting off and allow for healing.

It may well be that a relationship damaged by a problem can never be the same as it was before and you have to deal with that. If having a relationship with that person is important to you; you may have to work hard, not to get back to where you were (that may not be possible), but to at least the best place that you both can still get to. Then let it go at that.

So try that mnemonic  CPRT the next time that you hit a problem and see if it helps you. At least it’s better that running around in circles not knowing what to do. That’s another little ditty that used to be popular – when in trouble or in doubt, run in circles scream and shout. I think I prefer CPRT or even better KCCO.

9 Responses to Problem Solving 101

  1. […] that you are going for in those cases. I wrote a post at the beginning of the month that was titled Problem Solving 101, which had this saying from George C. Marshall – “Don’t fight the problem, decide it!” Deal […]

  2. […] in the ditch forever? It’s time to get up and move on. Get back on the road. I wrote a post about Problem Solving 101 last year that may help you get started back down the road. The road will be taking you in a […]

  3. […] So, my advice is to shift into problem-solving mode. I’ve written here about that before – see […]

  4. […] properly to the things that come your way on your way to your goals. Maybe a re-read of my post on Problem Solving 101 would be a god […]

  5. […] handles with just good problem solving techniques and I’ve posted about that here before – see as an example. Some things are beyond our ability to solve for others or for ourselves and that is […]

  6. […] posted here a few times about problem solving (see Problem Solving 101) and there are lots of great posts and article on line about how to resolve a problem, once you […]

  7. […] trying some of the problem solving steps that I’ve written about here many times (to start see my Problem Solving 101 post). If the issue concerns your health, the loss of a loved one or the end of a relationship, […]

  8. […] confidence comes when you develop a good problem solving method and stick to it. See my post on Problem Solving 101 for a start on […]

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