How are you contributing to the problem?

​In my capacity as a coach, I regularly have clients and readers contacting me to tell me their problems. If I can offer a quick piece of advice, I do so but there is one reply I use regularly which doesn’t go down well with most people. That reply is:

In my capacity as a coach, I regularly have clients and readers contacting me to tell me their problems. If I can offer a quick piece of advice, I do so but there is one reply I use regularly which doesn’t go down well with most people. That reply is:

‘How are you contributing to the problem?’

​Most people see a problem and immediately set about finding a way to blame it on somebody else. It is easier to blame it on somebody else because if it is their fault, we don’t have to look for the solution or make any effort to resolve the issue. But if you really want to solve a problem, you need to examine your own role in that problem. It is rare that you will experience a problem which you didn’t have some role in. When you take the time to ascertain your role, you can make some adjustments to your own thoughts, words and actions.

When there is somebody else involved in the problem, changing your words or behaviour forces them to do likewise. Whether they change for the better or not remains to be seen but you can only focus on what you can control i.e. you. So, if you are currently experiencing a problem which you are having difficulty resolving, take the time to ask yourself honestly:

‘How are you contributing to the problem?’

Most people see a problem and immediately set about finding a way to blame it on somebody else. It is easier to blame it on somebody else because if it is their fault, we don’t have to look for the solution or make any effort to resolve the issue. But if you really want to solve a problem, you need to examine your own role in that problem. It is rare that you will experience a problem which you didn’t have some role in. When you take the time to ascertain your role, you can make some adjustments to your own thoughts, words and actions. When there is somebody involved in the problem, changing your words or behaviour forces them to likewise. Whether they change for the better or not remains to be seen but you can only focus on what you can control i.e. you. So, if you are currently experiencing a problem which you are having difficulty resolving, take the time to ask yourself honestly:

​Assertiveness Tactics Report

Knowing how to communicate effectively is an important part of problem solving. My FREE Report, Assertiveness Tactics will help you communicate more effectively.


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​2 Types of contribution

2 Types of contribution

​When you are contributing to the problem, you are doing so in one of the following 2 ways:

When you are contributing to the problem, you are doing so in one of the following 2 ways:

​1. Your actions

how-are-you-contributing-to-the-problem-your-actions
1. Your actions

​This is what you are saying and doing. It is obvious that if you are saying and doing the wrong things, there are going to be problems. For example, if you don’t treat people with respect, you can usually expect to get some disrespect in return or at the very least, you can expect that they will not go out of their way to cooperate or collaborate effectively with you.

I am not saying that disrespect should be met with disrespect but you have more chance of receiving respect if you ensure that you treat others with respect. If you were treated with disrespect, you may have behaved in a way which made the other person feel disrespected and so influenced their behaviour.

If you have had a problem with someone else, you can go back over the situation in as much detail as possible and identify each action you took and each word you said. You can then put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider how they might have interpreted your words and actions.

Another helpful exercise, whether somebody else was involved or not is the following:

This is what you are saying and doing. It is obvious that if you are saying and doing the wrong things, there are going to be problems. For example, if you don’t treat people with respect, you can usually expect to get some disrespect in return or at the very least, you can expect that they will not go out of their way to cooperate or collaborate effectively with you.

I am not saying that disrespect should be met with disrespect but you have more chance of receiving respect if you ensure that you treat other which respect. If you were treated with disrespect, you may have behaved in a way which made the other person feel disrespected and so influenced their behaviour.

If you have had a problem with someone else, you can go back over the situation in as much detail as possible and identify each action you took and each word you said. You can then put yourself in the other person’s shoes and consider how they might have interpreted your words and actions.

Another helpful exercise, whether somebody else was involved or not is the following:
  • ​Make a list of everything that has gone wrong
    Make a list of everything that has gone wrong
  • ​Go through each item on that list and divide into two smaller lists – things you can control and, things you can’t control
    Go through each item on that list and divide into two smaller lists – things you can control and, things you can’t control
  • ​Throw away the list of things you can’t control
    Throw away the list of things you can’t control
  • ​Start working on the things you can control
    Start working on the things you can control

​By taking time to identify the acts you said or did wrong and, correcting then, you are going to find yourself solving many problems before they develop into anything serious.

Related article: Ask smart questions to solve problems

By taking time to identify the acts you said or did wrong and, correcting then, you are going to find yourself solving many problems before they develop into anything serious.

Related article: Ask smart questions to solve problems

​How are you contributing to the problems you are facing?

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​2. Your inaction

2. Your inaction
how-are-you-contributing-to-the-problem-your-inaction

​I have written before about how avoidance is not an effective problem-solving skill.

Unfortunately, many people think that failing to take an action absolves them of all responsibility when things go wrong. Quite frankly, this is cowardly behaviour. They don’t’ want to be the bad guy so they sit back and let others deal with the problems. They don’t offer solutions and they don’t try to deal with the problem. Often, by the time they realise that they can’t get away with ignoring the problem; the problem has escalated to the point of being extremely serious.

Some examples of your inaction might be contributing to a problem:

I have written before about how avoidance is not an effective problem-solving skill.

Unfortunately, many people think that failing to take an action absolves them of all responsibility when things go wrong. Quite frankly, this is cowardly behaviour. They don’t’ want to be the bad guy so they sit back and let others deal with the problems. They don’t offer solutions and they don’t try to deal with the problem. Often, by the time they realise that they can’t get away with ignoring the problem; the problem has escalated to the point of being extremely serious.

Some examples of your inaction might be contributing to a problem:
  • ​You are pretending that the problem doesn’t exist
    You are pretending that the problem doesn’t exist
  • ​You refuse to have the necessary conversations
    You refuse to have the necessary conversations
  • ​You fail to make the consequences clear to the people involved
    You fail to make the consequences clear to the people involved
  • ​You fail to implement the consequences
    You fail to implement the consequences
  • ​You blame others to distract from your failure to act
    You blame others to distract from your failure to act
  • ​You plead ignorance
    You plead ignorance
  • ​You only join projects when you see they are going to be a success
    You only join projects when you see they are going to be a success
  • ​You assign responsibility to others for things you should be doing
    You assign responsibility to others for things you should be doing

​Assertiveness Tactics Report

Knowing how to communicate effectively is an important part of problem solving. My FREE Report, Assertiveness Tactics will help you communicate more effectively.


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​These are just some of ways that you use inaction to absolve yourself from blame.

From my experience, I have found that most instances of inaction arise when others are involved. You don’t want to be the bad guy or you are afraid of conflict so rather than deal with the problem, you hope that the other person sorts themselves out so that you don’t have to say anything.

What you need to realise here is that if somebody feels that they are getting what they want from their behaviour, they are not going to change it unless they are given a reason to. Even if they realise that their behaviour is inappropriate, they will find a way to justify their behaviour i.e. the end justifies the means. Nothing will change unless you take action, step up and, insist that it changes.

Resource: If you struggle to speak up to other people, How to Talk So Others Will Listen will help you get on the right track.

These are just some of ways that you use inaction to absolve yourself from blame.

From my experience, I have found that most instances of inaction arise when others are involved. You don’t want to be the bad guy or you are afraid of conflict so rather than deal with the problem, you hope that the other person sorts themselves out so that you don’t have to say anything.

What you need to realise here is that if somebody feels that they are getting what they want from their behaviour, they are not going to change it unless they are given a reason to. Even if they realise that their behaviour is inappropriate, they will find a way to justify their behaviour i.e. the end justifies the means. Nothing will change unless you take actions, step up and, insist that it changes.

Resource: If you struggle to speak up to other people, How to Talk So Others Will Listen will help you get on the right track.

​Conclusion

Conclusion

​You will encounter many problems in your life as you meet obstacles and challenges along your way. Most problems are easy to overcome but occasionally, you will encounter a problem which is difficult to resolve. The first thing that most people do when faced with a problem is to find somebody else to blame but this rarely ever solves a problem. The right thing to do is to ask the right questions of yourself to determine your role. One of my favourite questions is ‘How are you contributing to the problem?’ It forces you to look at both your actions and your inactions to find the things you can change to get back on track. Next time you face a stubborn problem, ask yourself that question and take the time to answer honestly.

You will encounter many problems in your life as you meet obstacles and challenges along your way. Most problems are easy to overcome but occasionally, you will encounter a problem which is difficult to resolve. The first thing that most people do when faced with a problem is to find somebody else to blame but this rarely ever solves a problem. The right thing to do is to ask the right questions of yourself to determine your role. One of my favourite questions is ‘How are you contributing to the problem?’ It forces you to look at both your actions and your inactions to find the things you can change to get back on track. Next time you face a stubborn problem, ask yourself that question and take the time answer honestly.