The key to finding a solution is in understanding the problem. And most problems have one thing in common, that is, people having communication issues.
Whether the problems are political, business, social or environmental, and whether they are personal, local or global, the one thing that they have in common is people with a purpose interacting with other people with a different purpose. While the source of the problem may be rooted in personality, culture, history, or any number of other sources, one thing is for sure, there are people involved. And when there are people involved, there’s a flow of opinions, emotions and attitudes that are involved in any given moment.
Having a working knowledge of what motivates, or triggers, behavior is the key to creating solutions to most problems, most of the time. This is the basic principal of communication, or so called soft, skills.
Perhaps it would be best to scale this down to a relatable case study, focusing on a problem that has a direct affected in someone’s personal life.
Here’s a practical example. Two people are in a relationship in which one has, over time, assumed a lead role and the other has been accommodating. And let’s assume there is some smoldering tension over these roles and that one party is more aware of the tension than the other party is. Most of the time this relationship appears to be working fairly well, but an important decision comes up. The person with the leadership role is accustomed to not being challenged. The person with the accommodating role has a stronger than usual position on the decision that has come up. This creates a disruption to the normal dynamic of the relationship, tensions rise (perhaps demonstrated by tone, volume, body language) and observable behaviour creates perceptions. Of course those perceptions are likely skewed from the norm and lead to reactions that are also skewed from the norm and now the situation is in escalation mode.
The above example presents a better understanding of the nature of problems. Triggers, perceptions and reactions create escalations. Again, this is very often not even intentional. It is situational, and it is resolvable. So now we move to the nature of solutions.
The solution to most problems starts with a rational look at what is being perceived. Then take a careful look at what core need is being impacted. For example, it may be ego or feeling appreciated. This allows people to be aware of what they are really reacting to, a perceived threat or offence. Perception is a very important word. Perception can activate ego, conditioned responses, beliefs, memories and other things that may not even apply to the current moment. Identifying the perception is what enables the power of choice. A person who is aware of their perception and what it is triggering is in a position to choose their reaction. Escalate, deescalate, or perhaps the best choice is to pause and offer a pause to the other person involved also. Because when escalation is occurring, there is almost certainly a reduction in rational thinking for everyone involved.
While this is a description of a personal problem, similar dynamics are involved at all scales, from pairs, to groups, to populations. The solution to most problems is learning about applied behavioural science and practicing self management. Otherwise known as communication, or so called soft, skills. That does not mean manage self into a state of complacency. It means managing self into a state of choice. Both escalation and de-escalation are valid options, depending on the situation and based on a choice that is motivated by rational thinking rather than a triggered response.
What creates the potential for a solution to most problems is awareness and self management enhanced by communication skills. If that sounds simple, it is. It’s the details in the current moment that create complexity. And that is why, like managing all complex systems, skills training and practice are essential.
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