Friday, March 20, 2009

Problem Solver

A few weeks ago, I posted about the book Strengthsfinder 2.0, and I listed my five strengths. The accompanying book Strengths Based Leadership breaks all the strengths into categories - executing, influencing, relationship building, and strategic thinking. One of my strengths was influencing - maximizer, my strongest, which basically means I love to find my own strengths and the strengths of others and maximize them. Another was in relationship building - individualization, which means I see people distinctly and not as a stereotype. The other three fell into strategic thinking - strategic (seeing solutions), context (learning from the past), and futuristic (looking to the future). Basically what that says to me is that I look at people individually, and at problems individually, I find the people who can best meet it given their skillset, and I organize a group to create a solution based on past experience and future desired outcomes. Basically, I solve the problem.

I have always been a problem solver. I loved solving logic problems, crossword puzzles, and math quizzes since I was little. When it came to people, I was the friend who people came to for tutoring, help with relationship troubles, or suggestions of how to deal with a teacher they were not seeing eye to eye with. I have diffused countless squabbles between peers just because I saw a way to find peace, or at least resolution. The biggest problem with being a lifetime problem solver: solving the problem of wanting to solve the problem.

I really have been working at being a better listener. I can be a great listener, and when I choose to use that ability, some people even think it's one of my greatest abilities. I think it is because I have really worked on it in my life, not because it necessarily comes natural to me. Lately, though, I find myself overtalking people again far too much. I want to "solve the problem" in what they're saying - even if they're not presenting one. I also tend to over-personalize: I have an amazing ability to make almost any story about me. I hate that I do it, sometimes even as I do it. Yet I see the connections between other people's stories and my own so readily, it's hard not to want to say, "Oh, this is how I dealt with that problem." Again, I do it even when they're clearly not asking how to solve it. It's especially annoying when they're not even talking about a present problem, but something from years back.

So I am writing this post as my personal pledge: I am going to do my best to stop overtalking, stop making the story about me, and stop solving problems without being asked. If I come close to that goal, I'm sure I will learn from the exercise. Who knows I might even learn to solve another problem.

-- Robert


C.Flower said...

Oh my god, Robert. I do the same thing! Personalizing other people's problems. Trying to solve their crisis by relating it to my own.

Ugh. I'm doing it RIGHT NOW.

Robert said...

It's very hard to turn off, isn't it? Just this weekend, I couldn't seem to stop myself in one simple conversation... hopefully it doesn't drive others as nuts as it sometimes seems to. Or at least, hopefully they put up with me despite it.

le35 said...

I appreciate you working on this. It is a hard thing for me sometimes. I am very much a problem solver, too, and sometimes, this is the way I relate. But other times, I work really hard to NOT make everything about me.

Robert said...

As two problem solvers, we're neither one used to others trying to solve our problems, I think, so it sometimes becomes more oil and water than yin and yang. Thankfully, we get along in most ways very well, and we both are so oriented to solving problems, we are both willing to solve the problem of being too much of a problem solver.