Problem Solving 101

March 5, 2014

“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.

So, what’s your problem?

August 12, 2015

On the Jack’s Winning Words Blog today –  “The way we see problems is the problem.”  (Stephen Covey) Jack went on to write –  Everybody’s got problems …big, small, and tweener.  Problems are simply choices that we have to make each day.  S.C. says that problem-solving begins with correctly pinpointing the problem.  “What’s your problem?”  Calmly look for all possible solutions.  Prioritize, and then follow through.  If “1” doesn’t work, try “2”, etc.  And, remember the adage, “Not to decide is to decide.”    😉  Jack
painted into cornerI’ve posted here previously about problem solving; however, Covey’s little quote spurred some additional thinking on the topic. If I was to suggest a slight change to Covey’s quote is would be, “the way we see things as problems is the problem.”  There are, of course, real problems in life; but, then there are the things that we see as problems which are either totally imagined or best just left alone or ignored.

Maybe you know someone who is so paranoid that they believe that everyone is out to get them or that everybody’s talking about them behind their backs. Those people are creating problems out of nothing but their imagination. Of course, since they think there is a problem, they expend a great deal of energy trying to solve those problems. They may run aroundgossip confronting people whom they believe are talking about them or they may spend time denying imagined allegations which they believe are being spread about them; and that’s their real problem.

Others may see things that are best left alone as problems that they should try to do something about. An oversight by someone else becomes a slight against them, in their minds. Not being invited to an event becomes a major problem for them to be investigated and perhaps corrected. These same people may encounter things in life that just occur without thnk about itrhyme or reason and decide that they will try to correct things. They may spend hours or days researching the
“problem” without ever really accomplishing anything. Eventually they lose interest in the problem and wander off in search of the next windmill with which to tilt.

So, maybe Covey should have started his advice on the resolution of problems by saying that first it is important to take a moment to decide if this is really a problem and then maybe is it really your problem? Trying to “solve” something that is not really a problem is frustrating and taking on problems that aren’t really yours is seldom successful. There are problems that are so large and general in nature that they spawn movements to resolve them, so maybe joining a cause is the best solution for you. You won’t solve the problem by yourself, but you can help.

If the problem really is yours, you can follow Covey’s advice and perhaps read my post on Problem Solving 101. Almost all advice on problem solving follows the same path. Another good piece of advice is to keep problems in some perspective. Almost no problem that you will encounter in life is a life or death situation and most are way less critical than we make them out to be. The world will not end if you do not resolve the problem at hand. Don’t let your problem solving efforts totally consume your life. Step back or step away from them every now and then to catch your breath and to re-evaluate their importance to your life. You may be surprised how many of them just evaporate before your eyes as you are e-examining them. Some of them you may just decide to let be andhand reaching for heaven
stop your efforts to solve them; and that’s OK, too. Some of them you may need to take to God and ask Him to
take them off your shoulders. There is an immense sense of relief when you take your problems to God, because you have now engaged the best problem solver ever. You gotta problem with that?

A new year…A new you?

January 1, 2020

I saw a quote on the music channel recently that seems apropos for today-

“Many of us crucify ourselves between two thieves – regret for the past and fear of the future.” – Fulton Oursler

If that description fit for you, perhaps it’s time for a change. Today is the perfect day to start changing your life. Yesterday was a day to look back on the events of the past year. Today is the day to look ahead to the New Year and resolve to make the changes that are necessary in your life to make it better. Why? Because what happens next is really up to you. It’s your destiny.

William Jennings Bryan said it best – “Destiny is not a matter of chance; it is a matter of choice. It is not a thing to be waited for; it is a thing to be achieved.”

I also like this quote attributed to Unknown – “One day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it’s worth watching.”

So, use today as your starting point. Take note of your current situation, not with regret; but, so that you can measure your progress as you move in that new direction. Don’t let yourself think that it’s too late for you to change. Bikram Choudhury said -“Never too old, never too bad, never too late, never too sick to start from scratch once again.”

A big roadblock to change for some is just recognizing the things that need work – that need to change. What to change in order to make a difference in your life is often as simple as adjusting your attitude, your outlook on life. There is a fine line between being realistic and being pessimistic. The pessimist sees the challenges ahead and admits defeat before he even starts. A realistic person sees those same challenges and begins formulating a plan to overcome them. The line that separates the two is called optimism. It is better to be an optimistic realist than a pessimist any day.

Maybe you can decide today that you are going to start each day looking forward to what is to happen, rather than dreading it. A big part of looking forward is having goals that you are working towards. Those goals may be short or long term and most will usually have multiple steps along the way, so chose a step that must be taken and make that your goal for today. Another part is confidence that, no matter what comes your way, you are prepared to deal with it. That 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 that.

You will quickly find that the world is a much better place when you approach it with a positive, upbeat attitude. People will enjoy being around you and in many cases that leads to more success in business, as well as in life. Not only that; you will actually enjoy life more when you spend less time in the dark dungeon of despair and more time in the sunshine of happiness. That will happen when you decide to heed the advice of Anthony J. D’Angelo –  “Wherever you go, no matter what the weather, always bring your own sunshine.”  Once you decide to do that, you will not spend time in the darkness of despair because, as Helen Kellor once said – “Keep your face to the sunshine and you cannot see a shadow.”

So, use today to reset your outlook on life. The choice of what to do in the coming year is really a no-brainer. Find an optimistic happy place and vow to stay there this year. Don’t dread what life throws at you; rather, relish the opportunities to overcome adversity and learn from your mistakes on your journey to your goals.

Have a great New Year by becoming a new you!

Whining about it is a waste of time…

December 11, 2019

In today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, Jack used this quote – “Realize that if you have time to whine and complain about something, then you have the time to do something about it.”   (Anthony D’Angelo)

Whining about things seems to be a favorite pastime for many, maybe because it is the easiest things to do when faced with a roadblock or setback or calamity. Whining is sometimes a cry for sympathy or help, but most often ii is just a convenient excuse for doing nothing about whatever it is that troubles the whiner. For them, it seems to take less effort to whine about it than to do something about it. Whining about it is a waste of time…

Now, sometimes having a good cry about something is a healthy emotional release. Once the tears stop, the next step should be about getting on with life and not about going into whining mode. There is an old saying that “misery loves company”, but nobody really likes to be around a whiner. That is why people try to avoid the “Debby Downer” types at work or socially. No one really expects, or hopes, to hear a long list of ailments or health complaints when they say to someone, “How are you?” Whining about it is a waste of time…

So, how do you implement the second half of today’s quote and do something about whatever it is that is bothering you? If it’s a problem that has you down, 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, there are other steps that you can take to deal with it, rather than just whining about it. Whining about it is a waste of time…

Issues with one’s health can be particularly difficult because the initial reaction to bad health news is that there is nothing that you can do – it is what it is. The fight or flight reaction sets in and many use whining as their flight response. They seek comfort in someone else’s response to their bad news. Those people seldom appear in the nightly news stories about survivors of various forms of cancer or other ailments or afflictions. The people who appear in those stories chose to fight instead of whining. Instead of using what time you may have been told you have left whining about it, why not choose to fight instead and use that time finding a way to prove the prognostication wrong. You will find that many more people rally around a fighter than those who choose to commiserate with a whiner. Whining about it is a waste of time…

For those instances of the loss of a parent, child or life mate, the choice is more focused upon getting on with life and putting your memories of that person into proper perspective. For some, whose loved ones were taken by preventable circumstances; instead of whining about it they turn to doing something about it. That is how M.A.D.D. got started and how many worthwhile charities got started. The people left behind decided to try to do something to prevent the recurrence of the tragedy that befell them, instead of just whining about it. Whining about it is a waste of time…

The end of a relationship can also lead to whining or to actions. Step one is always accepting the fact that the relationship has ended. That is difficult for some and can lead to bad actions or disaster. For most, it is a matter of putting more time into answering the question, “What now?”  It is a time for some self-reflection. The breakup of a relationship is seldom a completely one-side decision. The importance of taking a little time for self-reflection is to understand the role that your own actions or reactions played in the end of the relationship. It is not a time to beat yourself up; but, rather, to understand what you might do differently in a future relationship. Whining about it is a waste of time…

So, did I mention that Whining about it is a waste of time…

You can’t deny it, so deal with it…

September 18, 2019

The first stage of grief is often defined as denial, the “I can’t believe that he/she is gone” or “I can’t believe that this happened” stage. That is also the first stage (maybe the precursor is a better description) of dealing with problems in life. Recently this quote appeared in the Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“When you confront a problem, you begin to solve it.”  (Rudy Giuliani)

Zig Zigler put it slightly differently – “ The first step in solving a problem is to recognize that it does exist.”

I’ve 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 have identified it. There are fewer things devoted to recognizing the problem in the first place.

Confronting the problem means acknowledging that it exists. For many it is that first step that is missing. They can’t see the problem, especially if it is them – how they are acting in or living their life.  Spousal abusers seldom see what they are doing as controlling or manipulative, much less as abusive. Addicts become too focused upon the next high to deal with their addiction. Sometimes it is hubris, as much as anything else that clouds the judgement of the problem; the arrogant and self-important people of the world see things that are considered wrong by others as rights or entitlements. For these people, who can’t see that they have a problem or that they are the problem, interventions by family or friends is often the only way to get them to confront the problem.

If denial is the first stage precursor to dealing with a problem, many times it is quickly replaced by excuses. The immediate response to any threat is fight or flight and excuses provide a little of both by providing a way  to deflect blame for the problem by claiming that it someone else’s fault or caused by someone else. The wife beater may blame the actions of his wife to justify the beating with the comment that “she deserved it”. It is also easy to shift the blame for ones actions on some nebulous entity, such as society or everybody.

Do you remember what your mom told when you used the excuse that “everybody is doing it” to justify something stupid that you did as a youth? That advice still applies to your adult life. You can’t ignore or deny a problem that you might have by citing that excuse. Maybe the “everybody” that you know and to whom you are referring to is a big part of your problem.  Recent Chevrolet commercials have used the tag line “Find new roads”; maybe you need to “Find new friends”.

Perhaps the third stage as a precursor to solving problems in your life is the feeling of isolation or loneliness that overcome you. It is a very lonely feeling when you have that “aha” moment and realize that you have a problem and that problem is within you. All of a sudden, everyone else seems to drop away and you are standing there by yourself with your problem. Or are you? That is the time when your faith can provide you with the support and strength to carry on. You are not alone. You are never alone. God is always there with you and ready to help. You just need to ask.

If you can get to that stage, where you ask God for help with your problem, you have broken through the stages of denial and blame and started to deal with the problem. That is huge!  It is likely that the problem is not resolved just because you have taken that first step, but you are on your way in a new direction (the right direction).  You have taken ownership and sought help. It may be that you need the help of others – therapists or councilors – but you already have God at your side, so that part is easier.

When you reach this stage, you should feel good about yourself, maybe for the first time in a long time. You may still find the next few steps in the problem solving process to be difficult, but they are rewarding as well. The problem is no longer in control of you. Now you are in control of the process to resolve it. Congratulations.

Start your day by asking for God’s help with whatever problems you have (or have been denying). Your day will go much better.

Do you have a plan?

August 19, 2015

“One possible reason why things aren’t going according to plan is that there never was a plan.” ― Ashleigh Brilliant

I love Ashleigh Brilliant quotes. What a great sense of humor and understanding of mankind he displays. Many of us think we have a plan for our lives or maybe even just for the day. Perhaps we start each day with a “To Do” to do listlist, but that’s not really a plan. Perhaps we have even spent some time thinking about the day and the things that we need to do or want to do; but those thoughts aren’t plans either. Maybe we have visualized how the day might go. Maybe we have dreamed about or wished how the day might go. None of those are plans.

So what is a plan? The WikiPedia definition of a plan is –

A plan is typically any diagram or list of steps with timing and resources, used to achieve an objective.  It is commonly understood as a temporal set of intended actions through which one expects to achieve a goal. The definitions in other sources are similar and likely similarly unachievable in life.

We like to think we can plan and that we have plans for our life. We have, instead, some goals in mind andchasing goal perhaps we have considered a few alternatives at a few decision points in the processes necessary to achieve those goals. What we have are dreams and ambitions surrounded by a vague understanding of what is required to achieve them, nestled in good intentions and held together with the gossamer threads of naivety. In fact there never was a plan.  I often say that I had a plan and then life got in the way.

The thing is that not having a clear and firm plan is OK. A dream or a goal provides us with some sense of the direction that we wish to go in. Our plan (an outline at best) gives us a starting point and the rest of the journey towards those goals falls loosely under the category of learning and maturing. Another thing is that the plan changes as we go, or at least it should. Finally, it’s almost useless to try to keep track  (score) of how you are doing in achieving the original plan. As Brilliant put it –

“Please don’t ask me what the score is. I’m not even sure what the game is.”  ― Ashleigh Brilliant
Have you ever met someone who says that they are still trying to find themselves, to figure out what they want to be; what they want to do with their life? You may initially pity them or even be repulsed by their lack of ambition or purpose; but, the truth is, they may be stating more honestly than you what their plan is for their life. They have no plan yet and they admit it. Some of the most famous and successful people the world has known spent a part women dreamingof their youth bumming around the world trying to figure out what they wanted to do with their life. Along the way they accumulated wisdom about people and different cultures that served them well later in life.

So, let’s all continue to make our daily To Do lists. They aren’t plans; just task lists that we may get to in some random order and feel good about accomplishing. As for real plans in our lives, maybe we should just make sure that our moral compasses are set right, let life happen and enjoy the ride. We can still have dreams, because as Brilliant says –

“The best reason for having dreams is that in dreams no reasons are necessary.”  ― Ashleigh Brilliant

I’ve posted here before3 about dreams, see the post What’s in your Dreams?

But as for plans – go back to the top and read the first quote. Don’t spend too much time on a plan that goes out the window the first time things don’t go as planned. You’re better off to prepare yourself to react 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 start.

Making the turns in life…

February 5, 2015

“A bend in the road is not the end of the road, unless you fail to make the turn.” ― Helen Keller

With all of the snow that we’ve had locally of late, making the turns and getting up the hills while driving has proven to be quite challenging. Life can get like that some times – a little slippery and sometimes dangerous. Sometimes life throws us curves that are hard to make. We may slip off the road and end up in the ditch for a while if we don’t watch out; afraidhowever, those curves are not the end of the road (or of life), just the end of the road (and life) going in the direction that you were used to heading.

Life is more like driving at night and perhaps in a snow storm. You can see ahead a little ways ahead in the beams of your headlights, but not all that far and there are still things lurking off both sides of the road that may jump in front of you at any minute. Few ever see accidents coming – a patch of icy road, a deer running out from the side of the road or cresting a hill and finding a stopped vehicle in front of you. Life can be like that. We just can’t see the things coming that can be sharp bends in the road of life – an illness or death in the family, the unexpected loss of a job or perhaps an unanticipated move for work-related reasons. Things happen. The road bends; but, it’s not the end and it’s how you deal with thoseremorseful turns that will dictate how you feel about life.

One can see life’s changes (bends in the road) as unsettling, dangerous and frightening, or chose to see the change in direction as an exciting adventure to somewhere that you’ve never been to before.  You can have fear or you can have fun. Whichever you choose, there’s no going back. Life doesn’t come with a reverse gear.

So, after you get over the “Oh, Crap; I didn’t see that coming” moment; how do you deal with life’s bends in the road? Do you shut down in fear or do you crank it up in anticipation of the new challenges and/or adventure. Do you get all depressed, or do you get organized and come up with a plan? Do you stop and say to yourself, “I can’t do this”; or, do you swing into action and say, “I won’t let this stop me”?

surrounded by sharksWhile it is impossible to avoid the unknown twists and turns in life or to even see them coming; it is possible to go through life with a positive attitude that better prepares you for dealing with them. You can be better prepared to deal with crises if you have already made the choice to not let FUD (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) rule your life. You may not ever be able to change things or put them back to the way that they were, but you can choose how you will continue to go forward – how soon, how far and in what new direction.

One of the absolute keys to success in dealing with life’s twists and turns is to see them and accept them as such.  Too many people spend too much time in states of denial, rather than taking action – accepting that it happened and planning your response. Once you can look at what has happened and say to yourself, “OK, it happened, what now?”;
women looking at direction signyou are on your way to dealing with whatever it was; and more importantly, to where you are now. If you ran off the road and got off into the ditch, it’s time to pick yourself up, come up with a plan and take some action. Doing something (almost anything) is better than wallowing in the ditch off the road. There’s nothing good in that ditch, just weeds.

OK, so now you’re divorced; what now? OK, so you lost that job; what are you going to do now? OK, the boy (girl) of your dreams turned you down for the dance; what now? Take note that you are still here to ask those questions. It didn’t kill you. Most of life’s curves won’t kill you; they may just cause you some temporary pain. But what choicesnow, what comes next? Do you plan to just lay there 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 different direction now; so, there are new things to learn, new people to meet, new adventures to live; and, oh yes, more curves ahead.

Have great day on the road of life and watch out for the curves.


Three little words that can change your life… Deal with it. (8 of ?)

March 28, 2014

Sometimes the simplest little things can have big impact on our lives. In this series of posts I examine very short sentences (each just three words long) that can make a difference in your life. If you have a three word sentence that changed your life somehow, share it with me and I will share it with the world.

Today’s three word sentence – “Deal with it.” – came from the retired pastor of my church, Pastor Jack Freed, whose blog Jack’s Winning Words I read daily. I asked Jack to help me think of three word phrases that I might want to write about that have life meanings. His list is challenging, but good material to work with and you will see more of them in the future.. Today’s phrase is oft accompanied by the corollary, “Get over it.” 

Whatever “it” is the point is to take it on, not to let it just fester or grow in your mind. Life throws us all sorts of curve balls, some pleasant and some sad and many just surprises that we have to deal with. The secret is not to get frustrated or let these events get you down, but to develop thelady under cloud ability to take them on, assess what they mean and formulate a plan to deal with it.

Dealing with things that hit us is easier if we don’t let them initially overwhelm us. It’s OK to say, “Wow, I didn’t see that coming”; but, you need to move quickly on to, “Ok, how am I going to react to and deal with this?” Becoming befuddled and paralyzed is not the reaction 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 with it.

The meaning of that saying is the gist of today’s Three Little Words. You can’t just leave the problem or issue laying there, in hopes that it might just go away. In most cases, the longer something sits there unresolved the worse it gets. It’s like leaving a dead fish in the trunk of your car. The longer it sits in the back the worse it smells up front. Deal with it.

confrontationFor many the issue that is preventing taking any action is the fear of confrontation. You are usually not just confronting the abstract notion of a problem, you are confronting a person who is associated with the problem or who may be causing the problem. It may be something as simple as a difference of opinion or as deeply rooted as a difference of basic beliefs. Sometimes it is a difference of interpretation of events or statements that may have been made, but sometimes it is a difference in basic moral positions. Neither case need be intractable but the latter takes much more understanding, work and finesse. Deal with it.

It is perhaps that word understanding that is really the key to success here. Too many bitter arguments in life are based on misunderstandings or a lack of understanding and appreciation for the other person’s point of view. I talked of the challenges of trying to understand someone else’s point of view by putting yourself in their shoes in my post Eleven Hints for Life – Number 8. A take-away from that post is how hard it is to allow for all of the cultural differences that might be present; but you have to try to understand the other person’s point of view or frame of reference. You can’t assess the difficulty of the problem without understanding the gulf that separates the two of you from agreement. Deal with it.

So, start by getting as good of an understanding as you can about where that person is comingtwo women talking from or what is motivating them or just admit that you don’t have a clue and ask them to help you understand. That at least shows them that you are willing to try. Then, hopefully having clarified what the issue./problem is and what is driving them to take the position that they have established, you need to decide what you might need to do in order to make things right and whether it is worth it. I know that the last part of that sentence sounds harsh, but not all problems are worth the effort to solve them. Sometimes it is better to skip right to corollary and get over it and move on. Deal with it.

So, whether you make the problem solving effort to work things out or just decide to by-pass the problem and move on, the key is to make a conscious decision and take action. You will feel an immediate sense of relief, no matter what happens, because you are no longer facing this problem. It is behind you. Now you can start the next phase – Get over it. It is unfortunate that sometimes that also means deciding to get over the person with whom you have the problem, but that is a part of life, too. Deal with it.

I don’t need to hear you talk…I need for you to listen

October 4, 2018

I recently wrote a post about getting things out of the shadows. One of those things was depression. As happens every time that I mention depression, I got several likes/comments/follows from people who are dealing with, or have dealt with, depression.

I sometimes go look at the blog sites of people who follow my blog and in this case I perused a post on one of the blog sites that had some interesting advice for those trying to be a help to someone suffering from depression. That post was titled “Why I tried to Commit Suicide”

The gist of the advice from that post was that the person suffering through depression who may reach out for help is not looking for a cheerleader to tell them that everythinggirl with smile picture will be OK. Instead, they are looking for someone to listen to them, share their pain and perhaps offer support.

This blogger also pointed out a common mistake that would-be helpful friend often make – trying to help by reminding them that things could be worse.

In today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog, the quote that Jack used seemed appropriate –

“Knowing that there is worse pain doesn’t make the present pain hurt any less.”  (Gordon Atkinson)

I would characterize the advice of the blogger who shared her journey through the dark tunnels of depression to those who may be trying to help someone suffering through that trauma as follows:

I don’t want your pity; I want your support.

I don’t want to hear how great things are from your point of view; I want you to help me find a way out from my point of view.

I don’t need to hear you talk; I need for you to listen.

That last point may be the most important. When we try to “help” people we all tend to rush to some quick conclusion of what we think we need to do and we start talking.  Basically, we stop listening and start giving advice, even if we don’t yet understand the problem.  We usually miss the signs from that person that we just made a mistake.depression2 Unfortunately, the person who was seeking our help sinks back behind the shield that they had temporarily lowered to ask for our help. They may smile back and nod their head in apparent agreement, but we blew the opportunity to really help.

There is a difference between listening and waiting for your turn to speak. (Simon Sinek)

Unfortunately, most of us are so full of ourselves that we are just waiting for the next opportunity to speak, in order to show how brilliant we are. We don’t understand how stupid phrases like “I know how you feel” or “I feel your pain” sound to the person that we think we are trying to help. A more honest statement might be, “I can’t imagine the pain that you are feeling, but I want to try to help.”

caringYou can’t really help until you understand the issues that are causing the pain for that person and you will never understand them until you listen to them. If you have to speak, just ask more questions to keep the conversation focused upon getting to the root of the problems that the person is having such trouble dealing with. Only then can we begin to really try to help.

There are many ways to approach problem solving, once we understand the problems. I have posted her a few time on approaches that might help in this situation as well as helping us solve our own problems. See –


Those are two of those posts on problem solving.

However, the point of today’s missive is not to give advice about the solution that you may offer to someone who seeks you help; but, rather, to help you find the best way to help them by listening to them. You may not need to do anything other than that for them.

I think L. J. Isham  put it well – “Listening is an attitude of the heart, a genuine desire listento be with another which both attracts and heals.”

If you want to help – LISTEN!

Don’t let tradition be your jailer…

August 1, 2018

From the blog Jack’s Winning Words, comes this sage piece of advice – “Tradition is a guide, not a jailer.”  (W. Somerset Maugham)

Jack went on to write – “We’ve always done it this way” are words often heard when someone suggests a change.  Of course, some traditions are good and worth keeping.  But, new ideas can be good, too.” 

I’m on the Board of Directors for our local historical society and I hear that little phrase jail.png“We’ve always done it that way” a lot. The same can be said about most churches and their services. I’m on the church council at my church, too. Both represent organizations that need to make changes to the way that things have always been done; but both also represent organizations that are in danger of being held hostage to tradition.

Times change, tastes change, options change. All of a sudden Sunday mornings are no longer reserved for church, but rather for sports practices or games. There are tournaments to be played, ice time to be had, away games to travel to and any number of other things vying for the time of the families that used to go to church. In the case of the historical society, the general population finds other, more exciting things to do with their time than going to the local historical museum. “Never change anything” is the rallying cry of dying churches and organizations across the land. Proudly the members stand (usually alone) as bulwarks no-changeagainst modern times, changing tastes and new traditions. Empty and abandoned churches abound as do defunct little community organizations that time has passed by.

Both of the organizations that I’m a part of are attempting some new things to try to reverse the downward spiral that they appear to be on currently. Both represent organizations that are “aging out”; that is, they have mostly older members who are dying off, with few new, younger members to replace them. It’s not necessarily that the current members will defend against change to the last man; many, in fact, would welcome change if it saved the organization. The real challenge is understanding what younger people want from the organizations these days in order to join and support them. Must the church become a rock and roll mega church in order to survive? How can the historical society somehow make the sharing of history exciting and entertaining for younger people?  There are no easy answers to those questions.

new-way-forwardI think the key to solving these problems in the church and in little local organizations starts with the advice of Somerset Maugham. We (they) must not become slaves to tradition, locked in the past. Rather we must figure out how to honor those traditions while changing with the times. The “good old days” are behind us, but there are still good times ahead for those organizations willing to explore new approaches and new ideas.

In my church, we have launched a Saturday evening service once a month for families that cannot attend on Sunday mornings, due to other commitments. Our local historical society has a new program to take history out to the schools and other places through programs that share stories and some of our artifacts from our local history collection. time for changeThose are small steps, but they are steps in the right direction – the direction of change. Perhaps they are not so much breaking with tradition as they are adding new traditions into the mix. In either case, tradition is no longer a jailer.

What are your churches and local organizations doing to stay relevant and viable in these changing times?