Experiencing problems is part of life.
How you deal with those difficulties can say a lot about
you as a person. It is important to learn how to problem solve the issues you face.
The first step in problem-solving is working out exactly what the problem is.
This helps make sure you understand the problem. Then put it into words that make it solvable. For example:
● ‘I noticed that the last two Saturdays when you went out, you didn’t call us to let us know where
● ‘You’ve been using other people’s things a lot without asking first.’
● ‘You have two big assignments due next Wednesday.’
Make a list of all the possible ways you could solve the problem. You’re looking for a range of
possibilities, both sensible and not so sensible. Try to avoid judging or debating these yet.
If your mentee has trouble coming up with solutions, start him/her off with some suggestions of your own. You can set the tone by making a crazy suggestion first – funny or extreme solutions can end up sparking more helpful options. Try to come up with at least five possible solutions together.
Write down all the possibilities.
Look at the solutions in turn, talking about the positives and negatives of each one. Consider the pros before the cons – this way, no-one will feel that their suggestions are being criticized.
After making a list of the pros and cons, cross off the options where the negatives clearly outweigh the positives. Now rate each solution from 0 (not good) to 10 (very good). This will help you sort out the most promising solutions.
The solution you choose should be one that you can put into practice and that will solve the problem.
If you haven’t been able to find one that looks promising, go back to step 3 and look for some different solutions. It might help to talk to other people to get a fresh range of ideas.
Sometimes you might not be able to find the perfect solution. But by compromising, you should be able to find a solution you can live with.
Once you’ve agreed on a solution, plan exactly how it will work. It can help to do this in writing, and to include the following points:
● Who will do what?
● When will they do it?
● What’s needed to put the solution into action?
Once you have put the plan into action, you need to check how it went. If the solution worked,
congratulations! If not, return to Step 1 and start again. Perhaps the problem wasn’t what you thought it was, or the solutions weren’t quite right.
Remember that you’ll need to give the solution time to work, and note that not all solutions will
work. Sometimes you’ll need to try more than one solution. Part of effective problem-solving is being
able to adapt when things don’t go as well as expected.
Ask yourself the following questions:
● What has worked well?
● What hasn’t worked so well?
● What could you do differently to make the solution work more smoothly?