How to Stop Solving the Wrong Problems
June 15, 2022 | Megan Fine
A few weeks ago, my sweet grandmother passed away peacefully in her sleep. She was beloved by all who knew her, truly warm, charming, and delightful. She is and will continue to be dearly missed.
Though her passing was not unexpected, I realized a few days before the funeral that I didn’t have something appropriate to wear.
I voiced my concern to my partner, Ilan, in a mind-dump of both emotions and logistics. In a kind attempt to help, he said, “Well, why don’t you wear a black cardigan? A black cardigan would be modest and match pretty much anything.”
The thing is – though I hadn’t voiced it – I wasn’t worried about my cardigan selection. I was far more focused on my shoes. I had a dress, but the heels I own didn’t match (and I wasn’t sure I could make it through a calling hour, service, burial, and reception in heels anyway!), flats didn’t seem quite right, and it was going to be in the 40s – too cold for sandals.
Though I knew he was trying to help, I felt annoyed at Ilan’s suggestion – now, in addition to figuring out what shoes to wear, I had to explain why a black cardigan was not the solution to my outfit issues.
This example is small (I love Ilan and his intentions were good!), but it highlights something we so often do when trying to help others – we jump into problem-solving mode too quickly and end up solving the wrong problem. Because he didn’t ask questions to understand my actual challenge (versus the perceived one), my partner provided a solution that was not a solution at all.
Had Ilan simply said, “Tell me more,” or probed, “What are you worried about specifically?” rather than jumping to an answer, he would have known what the true problem was, and we both could have avoided unnecessary stress and aggravation.
The next time a team member or peer comes to your desk with a challenge or problem, remember to ask questions to understand the actual issue, not the perceived one. It will save you the trouble of solving the wrong problem and help you provide advice that’s truly worth your two cents.
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