Saturday, January 22, 2011

Problem Solving

Angry Sphynx

Image via Wikipedia

In dealing with anger you can recognize that you are angry, cool down, and turn your mind so that you are thinking more clearly, yet still in the end have a legitimate problem that needs to be addressed.  In this post I would like to outline a few things that you can do to solve a problem that is triggering your anger. 

Seek Wise Counsel

Without guidance, people fall, but with many counselors there is deliverance.
Proverbs 11:14 (HCSB)

It is interesting to me that when I am angry it seems that "I know best."  Yet when I have had a chance to cool off I often realize how foolish I really was.  One way to solve problems is to seek out counsel from someone that has had good life experience and knows how to handle your situations.  Go to an expert in the problem you are dealing with and ask them.  It could be a family member, friend, pastor, teacher, professional counselor, or other wise person.  Having a problem to solve ought not hinder us.  It is a great opportunity to learn and grow.  Going to someone that is in the know will lead you to effective action. 

Ask for What You Need

We are often angry because there is something that we are deprived of.  This is a frustration form of anger.  However, many times the thing that we need or desire is not verbalized.  It is unfair to the person that I perceive has neglected me if I have never expressed the need or desire.  In fact unstated expectations are poison to a relationship.  Learn to express your need confidently and calmly.  Often just stating your need or desire is all that is needed.  Admittedly there are times when this will not work.  Do not take possible rejection as a reason to keep your expectations silent.  Also learn to negotiate (See Below).  Give to get is often a good approach to getting needs met.  If you are going to ask for something be prepared to explain what you are willing to do for their benefit. 

Say "No" If Needed

Learning to say "No" is a critical part of setting healthy boundaries in relationships.  If you need to say no, but end up going along with or doing the thing that you do not believe is best or right then you set yourself up.  Initially it may feel like the right thing, like avoiding a fight for example.  However, over time not setting a boundary will lead to feelings of resentment.  If these feelings of resentment are not dealt with then it can lead to bitterness. 

Negotiate With Others

Often when we are angry we fall into either/or win/lose my way/your way thinking.  This type of thinking lends itself to prolonged conflict as each side works to convince the other side that they are right.  It also tends to keep us in the mind set that either I win or you wind, but one of us is going to lose.  This is a very unfortunate frame of mind.  The biggest problem is that it is most likely a false dilemma.  Most of the time any problem that people face in a relationship will have a multitude of possibilities to resolve the problem.  In fact no two people will solve the same interpersonal problem in the same way.  So to think there are only two ways of looking at the problem you are facing (really just one "My Way") then you really are stretching it a bit.  Why not three, four, or five ways.  Your so busy arguing for your way that maybe you missed the best way which would be the sixth way. 

First to negotiate you have to resolve to think that my way may not be the best way.  This does not automatically mean the other person has the best way either.  Perhaps both of your ideas stink.  But you are so locked in on arguing a bad idea you would never no it.  Second you have to be willing to understand the good points of the other person.  Then you have to be willing to offer suggestions that take the best of both points of view to solve the problem.  Finally you have to willing to let go of some of the things you wanted in order to get some of the other things that you wanted.  Fact is the only way to always get what you want is to live in total isolations, but then you may want to be around people so even then you would not get what you want. 

Opposite Action "Do something nice."

A secret gift soothes anger.
Proverbs 21:14 (HCSB)

This one usually gets funny looks when I say it.  Fact is doing something nice for someone that you are upset with soothes his/her anger, but it also soothes your own anger. 

Pros and Cons of Change

When you have a problem to solve it is always a good idea to consider both the benefits and drawbacks of making a change.  Especially negotiated change.  The reason is that the first time one of the drawbacks comes up you are likely to say, "See I told you we should have done it my way."  Fact is that what ever change you make it will have benefits and it will have drawbacks.  The best change is one that maximizes the benefit for all involved and minimizes the drawback as well as distributes the drawbacks fairly.  

Put Energy Into Something that has Purpose and Meaning

There are times when the best thing you can do is put the energy that anger creates to good use.  Finding meaning and purpose in the midst of a difficult time will help to channel your efforts into a productive outcome.  Sometimes the activity can be somewhat trivial (eg yardwork).  At other times the activity could be profound (eg social advocacy).  What ever you do, don't just sit there and stew in your anger.  Get up a do something. 

Prayer and meditation can be very helpful in finding meaning and purpose in life's difficult moments. 

Four Problem Solving Steps

  • Define the Problem

When defining the problem avoid defining it as a person.  When you define a problem as a person then you give all your power to change to the person you are upset with!  The definition of the problem should be something that is within your power to change.

  • Brainstorm solutions

Come up with as many ideas as you can.  Do not evaluate them at first no matter how silly they might seem.  The idea is to be creative as possible.  You can also ask others for ideas. 

  • Pick one or more to try out

You want to pick the one you are most likely to do and with greatest potential for success.

  • Evaluate how you did

Did your solution work?  If it did make a note of it.  You will likely solve similar problems in the future using the same or similar idea.  If it did not work go back to the beginning and make sure you have defined the problem correctly.  Then go through the other steps again. 


Chances are that solving the problem that is triggering your anger will take more effort than any one of these ideas on there own.  However, if you practice these you will become an effective problem solver. 

God Bless You


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