As I watch political campaigns, national debates, business meetings, and family discussions where the rhetoric and emotion increases while the civility and connection decreases, I see a common thread: failure to stop the discussion of solutions long enough to come to an agreement on how to define the problem.
I'm guilty myself. I see a problem. I assume other people see the problem and that they will define it the same way that I define it. I assume that we all understand what the criteria for a “good” solution will be. And I dive head-first into a conversation where I try to “sell” my solution to the problem as I see it.
Here's a thought: stop discussing the solution until we agree on the definition of the problem.
In the process, you might ask questions like:
- Do we both agree that there is a problem?
- What is the problem?
- What is the scope of the problem?
- What is causing the problem?
- What would a good solution look like?
Until we reach agreement on these starting questions, we can never agree on the solution to the problem.
How many conflicts could we resolve, reduce, or even eliminate if we all stopped talking about the solution long enough to understand our different ways of defining the problem?
Photo courtesy of www.sxc.hu.