Problem solving is a skill that is missing in the gap created by high-emotion, angry confrontations on one side, and bury-your-head-in-the-sand avoidance on the other. Some people would rather fight than negotiate and others would rather walk away; disappearing from relationships, social groups and even jobs so they don’t have to deal with a problem. Somewhere in the middle of those extremes are the skills required to figure stuff out, to work through misunderstandings, and to find a way to do life together without harming each other or writing people off. The skills you find among these anchor points will help you in amazing and tangible ways.
Through this section you will also be helped to find and use the anchor points of:
- Effective Communication
I think I’ve said what I wanted to say clearly and I’m sure that what I’ve heard someone else say is what they meant to say. Those two assumptions lead to most of the problems we have in human relationships. Communication (where both sides hear accurately and speak clearly) is key to your success. The focus of this anchor point is working at some simple skills that will lead to much better abilities to speak what you think or feel and hearing the thoughts and feelings of others. You can think about communication like a mobile phone. That phone both transmits information and receives what other phones are transmitting. Communication includes both the clear transmission of what we want to say to others and the clear reception of what they have to say to us. Growing your communication skills will impact your whole life (education, employment, friendships and even your romances), so don’t neglect building up this anchor point.
- Owning Up & Forgiving
Everyone knows someone who refuses to apologize for anything. As much as we know that no conflict or problem is one-sided, it can still be difficult to own our part. But this ownership of responsibility is essential to the skill of problem solving. What role did you play in the conflicts or challenges you face? Get honest with yourself and others and own it.
Other people make their mistakes too. You can choose to cut them off or find some way to get back at them, but at some point, for the sake of your forward progress and sanity, you have to let some of those things go. Choosing to forgive someone or move on from a situation where you were treated differently than you deserved is not a single moment of decision. It is more like an ongoing decision held in place by daily decisions and some healthy support from others.
- Learning From Conflict
Conflict is a normal occurrence in our lives. There is no way to get around it. The thing that stops forward movement for a lot of us is that we never gain the skills to deal with conflicts, so they keep happening and ending up in exactly the same way. There is a way to change that. The skills in this anchor point are hugely effective in helping you learn from conflict and get better at resolving it.
There are two primary responses to conflict: one is to run away and avoid it, the other is to run toward it and force a fix. The thing that is true in either of these extremes is that we seldom learn anything helpful to our future through our experiences with conflict. The absence of learning leads us down the frustrating path of repeating the actions that led to the conflict or prevented us from solving it. Learning from conflicts allows you to gain the skills to resolve conflicts and gives you the benefit of better understanding yourself, your relationships and the conflict response of others.
- Honoring Others
People are imperfect. They mess up, give up, act stupid and selfishly. We have all the reason in the world to mistrust others and we regularly use these reasons to judge them and withhold respect and honor. Some people have done enough harm to us and others to be mistrusted and treated with disrespect. That, however, can easily become our regular way of relating to others, where even the small flaws in people give us a reason to shut them out and treat them poorly. The problem with making this my regular way, is that healthy human relationships require the exchange of basic respect in order to function. We give dignity and value to others based on the sole fact that they are living beings and on the admission that we don’t know what they have gone through to get where they are or become who they are.
The social structures in our world also require this basic exchange of respect and honor. The achievements, roles, and positions that people hold (parent, college professor, politician, soldier, priest, flight attendant, store manager, police officer, bank teller, even the person collecting tolls on a bridge) come with a requirement that we honor the function of the role and the authority that the role gives to them. This anchor point will have you ignoring flaws and setting your reasons aside for disrespecting others. It will call on you to build the skills to treat people with dignity and to honor who they are and the positions they hold.