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The Problem with Problem Solving




Men by their very nature are problem solvers. They think in a line, or linearly. They start at the beginning of the problem and work their way through it. Step 1. You should do this.


Step 2. Then you do this.


Step 3. You continue the process until the problem is solved.



Now there are also women that are incredible problem solvers too. There are countless females that are famous inventors, scientists, and mathematicians. There are likewise many men who do not have the “problem solving” gene. The point is that a lot of men that are linear thinking, problem solving, testosterone-infused beings.


If you would like to continue the stereotyping of the genders, you could also say that women are, once again for the most part, much more intuitive than their male counterparts. As a rule, they are better at nurturing and caring for others. They notice details. They ask more questions and want more details.





Sometimes problems arise when the problem-solving male runs into a sensitive, intuitive female. I am one of those problem-solving males and I am married to a sensitive intuitive female . . . and we have been married for a really long time. We were still living in caves back then, and I would have to go out each day to kill a dinosaur for dinner. (As I said, we have been married a long time.) My wife came in one day and said, “I have this problem, and it really makes me upset.” Jumping into my problem-solving role, I immediately responded with:


“Step 1. You should do this.


Step 2. Then you do this.


Step 3. You continue the process until the problem is solved.”


She walked away no happier than when she walked in. This scenario continued too many times to count over the next several years. It finally dawned on me that she never seemed pleased that I had solved her problem or that she showed any interest in implementing my plans for a problem free life.


One day, after giving her a step-by-step plan for resolving her problem, she shook her head and walked away. I am pretty intuitive myself and knew that “head shaking” is not a good sign. Unfortunately, I was not intuitive enough to understand why.


I finally summoned up the courage to ask, “What is the matter?”


In marriage, if you upset your wife and you have no idea why, asking is not always a good idea.


“You just don’t get it do you?” she said turning to face me.


I didn’t get it, but I sure was not going to admit that!


She continued, “After all these years, you still don’t get it. I tell you about the things that are bothering me, and you tell me how to fix them.”


Finally she said something I understood. “Right,” I exclaimed. “I am a problem-solver after all.” I smiled . . . no beamed, that she finally acknowledged my talent.


She shook her head once again. “I know how to solve problems, but I don’t need you to tell me the steps to solving them. I just want you to listen to me. I want you to know how I feel. I want you to sympathize with me and ask me what I think I should do.”


I was speechless. It never dawned on me, even once, that she did not need my help in solving these problems. (Apparently, I am not nearly as intuitive as I had thought.) But when I think about it, I knew that she was right. Sometimes we just want to be heard. We want to know that someone else just might feel the same way as we do. Mostly, we want to know that we can share our feelings with others without judgment.


Now when my wife comes to me with a “problem” the conversation goes a lot more like this:


“I had this problem today.”


“I am sorry that it happened. Tell me more about it.”


“Well, this happened and it made me feel this way.”


“I know how you feel. What do you plan on doing about it.”


Not all problems are this easy to fix, but then again, not all problems really are in need of a solution!

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