Untangling a Mess

Untangling a Mess

Some problems are tough, but others are downright messy.

Tough problems may have the usual challenges:  Competing goals, limited resources, or strict constraints.  It takes disciplined, clear thinking to find an optimal solution.

Messy problems are different.  They are a tangle of hopes, fears, and judgments that are all mixed up with the issues you face.

When people personalize a problem, they get defensive .  They posture because they feel afraid or insecure.  It’s like a bunch of people who complain that the room is too dim, but they forget that they are wearing sunglasses that cut the light.  How can you help them see more clearly?

Separate the Impersonal from the Personal.    Step back and distinguish what is inherent in the situation (impersonal Reality) vs. what belongs to the interpretations of the people (personal Story).  Then deal with each according to its needs.

Address the Personal side with spacious listening and empathy.   Don’t fix or solve.  When you listen to someone’s desires, they feel hope.  When you hear their pain, they experience compassion.  When you acknowledge their unspoken needs, without judging them, they disclose their real agenda.  Their personal concerns don’t go away, but troubling thoughts no longer interfere with clear thinking.

Now you can address the Impersonal side with keen observation and rigorous analysis.  Take apart the problem, then put it back together in a more useful way.  Be systematic, challenge assumptions, and build on the best ideas.  Invite others to challenge you and improve your thinking.  If necessary, design a test and check on progress.

Once each side is treated with proper care, your mess will dissolve into a solvable problem.


2016-11-17T08:20:16+00:00 Categories: All, Conflict, Dilemmas and Problems, Personal Mastery|0 Comments

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