Problem Solving Through Conversation

I bet you've tried to talk about a problem with someone and come away more confused and unhappy than you started. It's happened to all of us. We know that other people's ideas hold some kind of key to finding what we need. Yet talking about our problems often leads to new problems.

Here's a better way. Understand what kind of help you want and behave in ways that make it more likely you'll get it. Consider these three possibilities:

  1. Have a conversation to learn how someone else solved a similar problem. This means listening to their story and being curious about it. It doesn't mean leaping to conclusions or trying to apply it to your own situation before you've heard the whole story.
  2. Have a conversation to learn how someone was able to persist until they found a solution. This doesn't require that the problem they solved was like the problem you want to solve. Instead, as you listen to the story, ask questions about what was true in their attitude, their surroundings, and their connections with other people that allowed them to keep going when a solution seemed out of reach. Again, you have to be curious about the whole of the story instead of running away with your first insight.
  3. Have a conversation about useful limits. Find out how other people have put constraints on their problems, projects or businesses. Listen with curiosity to the way people generate ideas when they accept or choose limits. And yes, be curious about the whole of the story before you start to apply it to your own situation.
Did you notice a common thread running though all three conversations? You have to suspend your own stuff long enough to be curious about the whole of a story. You have to engage with someone else's experience even after you have the first insight into how it might be useful to you. By maintaining your curiosity a little longer, you'll get to better ideas. And you'll find that other people are willing to share more of their best with you.


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