Good problem solving involves simplifying the issue until you can identify what the really crucial point is, and then doing what’s necessary to resolve that point.
Problem-solving also involves letting go of what’s past and done with and can’t be changed.
Bad problem solving means obscuring the real issue with egotistical worries and invented fears, burying your own needs in real or imagined concerns about what others will think or how they will be affected, and anticipating and building up mountains of problems that you imagine are going to happen tomorrow or next week.
Bad problem solving also involves poor handling of personal relationships, especially touchy situations and potential quarrels. One of the most common barriers to recovery is the difficulty that chemically dependent people have in accepting responsibility. They always tend to evade commitments and to shift the blame for everything onto someone else.
A favorite ploy is to answer a complaint or criticism with a counter-complaint, preferably in a completely irrelevant area.
Counter-Complaints are not Problem-Solving
Here is some dialogue that may sound familiar:
THEM: “I asked you to turn on the answering machine before you went out. I missed an important call.”
YOU: “Well, you forgot to leave the key under the mat for me last night.”
THEM: Don’t hang up on me when you’re annoyed. You know I hate it.”
YOU: “Well, you walk out of the room when we’re in the middle of a fight.”
None of these answers, obviously, are really responsive; they don’t excuse you, they don’t address the other person’s irritation or unhappiness, and they certainly don’t open any dialogue that will lead to a resolution of the problem. Most of the time, these counter-arguments are retaliatory.
The most straightforward answer to all of them is a simple: “I’ll try not to do it again.”
In some cases you can even reply: “I did it because I was very angry with you,” or “I was hurt; I wanted to get back at you.” These are honest responses that describe how you feel in the situation without throwing blame in the other person’s face.
Instead of facing a concern with a counter-argument, try to use “I feel” statements to better illustrate your point from how it emotionally affects you. “When you ________, I feel _________.” For example: “When you leave in the middle of a fight, I feel frustrated and unimportant.” These “I feel” statements perfectly set up the opportunity for a healthy dialogue and aid the problem-solving process.
Recovery Means Accepting Responsibility
There’s a good old standby for avoiding responsibility and shifting the blame: the apology and shifting the blame: the apology with a “but.”
“I’m sorry I yelled and grabbed the phone out of your hand, but you were just gossiping and you knew I was in a hurry.”
“I’m sorry I called you a name, but you’ve called me worse things.”
“I’m sorry I broke your vase, but you shouldn’t have put it on that shelf.”
In fact, two of the most effective expressions in the human vocabulary are, “I’m sorry” (followed by—no “but” or excuse or counter-attack or qualification) and “You’re right” (followed by a period).
What if you are convinced you were right? Does it matter?
Is it an issue in which you’d rather prove you are right or rather stay friends? Problem solving could just mean setting aside your pride in the interest of your relationships, or your sanity.
If you feel you must establish who’s right or wrong so that you don’t keep replaying the same scene, can you do it by simply stating facts of the case, describing unemotionally what you think happened, and letting the other person come to a conclusion?
If you or a loved one wants to learn more about our substance abuse programs, please reach out to us today. Our admissions team is available 24/7 at 888-907-0898 to answer your questions.