Seven Ways to Problem Solve

Written by: Eva Kova─Ź, Univ. graduate of Psychology

One logical way to problem solve is to seek support.  While it is logical to seek advice, don't forget that the final decision is still yours to make.

It is typically easier to advise others how to react in a particular problematic situation than to confront that same or similar situation ourselves. This is a main reason individuals seek solutions by consulting others for outside opinions.

Seeking support: It is common to get caught up in a problematic situation where we don't see a possible or clear solution. It is difficult to dissociate and remain neutral while accurately assessing a problem at hand in order to recognize possible solutions. Strong emotional ties make this process especially difficult.

The final decision is yours:

Like many of us, you've likely offered advice to a friend which didn't produce optimal results. They maybe said something along the lines of "Why did I listen to you?".

People often seek outside advice to remove responsibility from their own shoulders. Taking responsibility for one's own actions and words is the hardest part of making decisions and resolving issues. Doubt and negative thoughts form quickly: "What if I haven't made the right choice?", "What if I don't succeed?", "Am I making the right decision?".

 

7 Steps for Effective Problem Solving

Below are concise descriptions of the 7 steps for effective problem solving.

This problem solving technique is commonly used by psychologists in the counseling process to assist individuals in finding a solution on their own, and put it to use in a real scenario.  

Step 1: Identifying the Problem

Ask yourself what the problem is. There may be multiple issues within a single situation. Make a list of these issues and define why each one is a problem to you. Focus on behaviors rather than on yourself or a person (Incorrect example: "The problem is that I am stupid.") (Correct example: "The problem is that I easily allow others to betray or disappoint me, because I trust people too quickly.").

Step 2: Defining Goals

Try to define your goals specifically, while making them as realistic and attainable as possible. An example of a poor or broad goal is "I want to be happy." First, define what happiness means to you and what you can do to feel happier overall. Try to form your goals in the sense of actions you can take to achieve the desired goal. 

Step 3: Brainstorming

Take time to brainstorm possible ways to resolve the problem. Do not rush this process- People often want to prevent and solve problems before they even appear. Write down all ideas, even the ones that seem absurd or bizarre. Try to find 6-8 varying alternatives when resolving a particular problem.

Step 4: Assessing Alternatives

For every alternative you formed in the previous step, weigh the positive effects and negative consequences that each solution would bring. For every and any option, determine its advantages and its risks.

Step 5: Choosing the Solution

Carefully weigh all solutions. The best solution is not necessarily the option with the most pros and/or the least cons. Think about what means more to you, which solution can highlight the positive effects that matter the most to you, and which solution produces the mildest consequences. When you decide on a solution, it is important to create a timeline of when you intend to achieve your ultimate goal.   

Step 6: Active Execution of the Chosen Solution

Don't worry about failure. In this phase, concentrate on the journey that will lead you to your goal- don't worry yourself with potential problems.

Step 7: Evaluation

It's time to evaluate your success. If you were successful, congratulations! If not, no worries. Maybe you didn't quite choose the right solution or the situation changed. You have definitely learned something. Take this newfound knowledge, return to the beginning steps, and try again!