What’s Your Problem?

What’s your problem?

Uh, excuse me? Are you talking to me?

Yes, I am talking to you. And that’s part of the problem.

But let’s back up a moment.

As many of you know I’ve been in a 40-hour mediation class that a friend of mine was able to slip me into; I’ve been trying to find one that matches my schedule for over a year and this popped up with all the right features.

And here’s what I’ve seen so far:

we are failing at mediation because we are trying so hard to help solve problems without knowing what they are

Without getting into the definition of mediation per se, I can tell you this: you have to allow people the space and time – and pacing – to use their words in sharing their concerns.

My HR friends know only too well that people seldom initiate conversations talking about what they really want. Indeed; they often don’t know. But a simple technique I learned long ago can go a long way to creating the environment we need for people to share:


Most of us in class (including me) are so anxious to resolve conflict and generate solutions we are problem-solving before the participants even tell their story. We begin looking for solutions at the moment we read the intake forms. And in the actual mediation our wheels are furiously turning so we can get the disputants back to work and the organization humming again.

So it goes.

But does it really work to problem solve without knowing the problem?

Here’s what life has taught me and this class has reinforced. We don’t know other’s views, perspectives, beliefs, assumptions, etc., as well as we think. Don’t believe me? Watch how many people get disappointed by odd Valentine gifts tomorrow… (I thought you wanted a fishing rod!)

And absent that knowledge and without listening we can’t really hear what the other person is saying. We can’t help uncover the real problem – often unknown to speaker as well – without the art of listening and the gift of time.

Listening is quieting the mind as well as the voice.

Let others speak.

Respect them enough to let them solve their own problems.

Allow people the patience to stumble and trip and get up again as they try to uncover what their real issue is so they can then develop their own resolution.

Treat them like adults.

Life is full of problem and solutions; care enough about the people you work with to solve your own.

And let them do the same.


2 thoughts on “What’s Your Problem?

  1. Love, love, love this. Listen with the mind. I think this is why I find it almost impossible to formulate questions during the times I’m really in deep in it with others. There’s a lot of pressure these days to ask the right questions, lead with questions. I think though that a lot of time people answer their own problems and only need a quiet mind/listening ear to sit there and be with.

    • I agree Jocelyn. People long to be heard – really heard… And that takes time and patience which we sometimes don’t believe we have. I know I need to work on this too!

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