Problem Solving Methods (PSM's) and Strategies

Love Ed 201

2.8) 10+ Problem Solving Tools and Strategies to Address and Solve Issues

Introduction to Problem Solving

Tool #1 - The 5 Whys: The Remarkable Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Tool / Problem Solving Method (5W-PSM)

Tool #2 - Index Card Problem Solving Method (IC-PSM)

Tool #3 - Alternative Solutions Problem Solving Method (AS-PSM)

Tool #4 - "What If" Problem Solving Method (WI-PSM)

Tool #5 - "In Their Shoes" Problem Solving Method (ITS-PSM)

Tool #6 - "The Six Thinking Hats" Problem Solving Model (6TH-PSM)

Tool #7 - "What Has Happened" Problem Solving Method (WHH-PSM)

Tool #8 - "Numbers In A Bowl" game / Problem Solving Method (NIAB-PSM)

Tool #9 - Golden Rule & Love Your Neighbor Problem Solving Method (GRLYN-PSM)

Tool #10 - "Flow Chart" Problem Solving Method (FC-PSM)

Tool #11 - "Remove the Cause, or Dampen the Effect" Problem Solving Method (RCDE-PSM)

Tool #12 - "Trial & Error" Problem Solving Method (T&E-PSM)

Tool #13 - "IF-THEN" Problem Solving Method (IT-PSM)


Now that you have completed the evaluation and identification of the issues that need to be addressed, we can begin utilizing new problem solving methods and strategies that might shine light on the challenges you may be facing, or will likely face in the future.
Since there are already many problem solving methods for businesses trying to increase their profits, we can utilize a few of them and modify them to increase the "profits", gains, sustainability, and return on investment in our personal and interpersonal relationships. It appears that most people have never heard of Personal or Relationship Problem Solving Methods (PSM's), let alone received training on them. How many Personal PSM's have you been trained to use? Do you think that Problem Solving Tools are something that might have been helpful, had you known about them? Well it may be time to put some handy new tools in your "life-improvement" toolbox.

If you have many individual issues then you may want to work on those before starting on your relationship issues. For instance, perhaps you have problems communicating with others? Or perhaps you have a self esteem or self respect issue. Maybe you have anger or forgiveness issues?
Do you want to tackle the hardest problems or the easier ones first? Try to use your own personal examples when working through the PSM's to ensure you understand what application each method is most useful for. More details on that coming soon in section 2.10

Before we get into the training on the 10+ Problem Solving Methods (PSM's) to be presented, the following are some basic concepts involved in the Problem Solving process.

The 12 Basic Steps to Problem Solving:

1. Define the Problem / Issue. Is it the Right Problem to Solve?
2. State and check our Assumptions.
3. Collect and Analyze Information and Facts.
4. Determine the Root Cause(s) of the Problem.
5. Develop an estimated / desired Time Frame to work on the problem, start testing / trials, and begin implementation.
6. Utilize several Problem Solving Methods (PSM's).
7. Develop Alternative Solutions.
8. Evaluate Alternatives by examining the potential Benefits and Consequences (Pro's and Con's) of each one.
9. Select a Solution.
10. Implement the Solution.
11. Evaluate, Monitor and Learn from the Outcome.
12. Try Alternate Solutions until the Desired Outcome is Achieved.

How can I solve problems in my daily life?

1. First, ask yourself: is there really a problem here?
2. Have I blown it out of proportion? Catastrophized it? (Sky is falling complex)
3. Is this a personal issue or a relationship issue?
4. Should I accept some responsibility for it?
5. Have I personalized this? Am I being overly critical?
6. Ask for help or an outsider perspective if needed.
7. Can you see the forest for the trees? Have you focused on the all the numerous details and failed to also see the bigger picture, key points, major issues or far-reaching opportunities and possible consequences.
The pieces of the puzzle should fit together nicely in order to create a big beautiful picture. What is the beautiful "landscape" you are trying to create?
8. Break the problem down into smaller pieces. Inch by inch, life is a cinch. Yard by yard, life is hard.
9. Find the opportunity and lessons to be learned from the problem.
10. Use your creativity and imagination to find hidden treasures and benefits (silver linings).
11. Are you being overly negative? Yes but-ism? Yes it is a good plan, but I doubt the solution will succeed because ...
12. If possible, involve and work with all parties directly involved or affected by the problem you are trying to solve.
13. Use logic, intuition and PSM's to find solutions. Sleep on them until you know you are ready. Don't be overly impulsive.
14. Implement the solution(s).
15. Evaluate, monitor and learn from the results.
16. Try alternate solutions until the desired outcome is achieved.
17. Enjoy your success, or learn from your failures, and keep establishing new goals and action plans. Reaching an important goal without having established more goals and challenges can leave you feeling very hollow, bewildered, uninspired and unprepared to discover future personal growth in life, especially after the euphoria of reaching a high goal has dissipated.

18. Have an action plan, 2nd and 3rd level goals for the next higher phase after you reach your initial dreams and 1st level goals. The goals could be to solve other pressing issues, or they may be to share your success with others less fortunate. Maybe you want to write a book, a blog, a website or start a business, a charity or a foundation. Maybe you just want to relax for a while before continuing your journey towards peace, love and happiness, "self-actualization" and Transendence? ;)


Tool #1 - "The 5 Whys": The Remarkable Root Cause Analysis (RCA) Tool / Problem Solving Method (5W-PSM)

Using this technique you may discover that the root cause of the problem often turns out to be something completely different from what you may have been expecting.
The 5 Why's analysis has the purpose to inspect a certain problem in depth until it shows you the possible/probable root cause. At this stage, the root cause determined is still just a hypothesis and may not actually be the true root cause, or there may be several. Further critical thinking will be required to determine validity.

The 5 Whys method is part of the Toyota Production System, developed by Sakichi Toyoda.
"The basis of Toyota's scientific approach is to ask why five times whenever we find a problem. By repeating why five times, the nature of the problem as well as its solution becomes clear." - Taiichi Ohno

Keep in mind that "5" is just a number. Ask "Why" as many times as you need in order to complete the process and eventually determine appropriate corrective actions to solve the problem.

Example #1:

I get upset quickly when discussing difficult issues with my partner.
Because they make me so angry.
Because they never listen to my side of the argument.
Because they don't know how to listen and only want to see their side.
Because they don't want to lose the argument.
Because then they have to admit they might be wrong.

OK, so perhaps the root cause of you getting angry quickly is that neither you or your partner like to admit they are wrong. That can be a problem? Yes?
Thus, the anger is a response to the problem, not necessarily the problem itself (although anger management might be a part of the solution) and the root cause is not wanting to admit you might be wrong?
So how might you fix the problem? Perhaps by admitting you might be wrong some of the time? Or on the flip side: Do you always have to be right all the time?! Both of these issues may need to be addressed by you and your partner.
Another part of the solution may be that you both agree at the beginning of the discussion that either of you could possibly be wrong, before you even start getting worked up and agitated. Trying to prove that one of you is right and the other is wrong is NOT the goal of the discussion. The goal is to resolve a difficult issue and move forward in a positive and productive manner.
If you see the discussion going south, agree to pause and remind each other of the agreement you made at the start to remain civil or else you will need a time-out and re-group later.
But look what else you uncovered in the 5 Whys.
1. They never listen to your opinion. That needs to be worked out.
2. They don't know how to listen. Together you can work on improving your active, attentive listening skills so that you truly listen to your partner and best friend (we are assuming they are your BFF - Best friend Forever).
3. They only want to see their side. You will both likely have to work on stepping into the other persons shoes (another problem solving method that is quite useful).
4. They don't want to lose the argument. Thus you both need to stop trying to win the argument and force your viewpoint on the other person. You are a couple and you need to reach a solution that benefits both of you, not at the expense of the other, if you want to remain a couple.

Here is another example:

I have low self esteem.
Because I have always been told I am dumb and I make a lot of mistakes.
Because my family, friends, and students at school were fairly mean to me and then I do dumb things that cause problems for me.
I think they were mean because perhaps they have issues and said unkind things to me because of their own internal problems?
Because maybe they were treated badly as a child and developed self esteem problems which are the root cause of their unfair treatment of others?
Because maybe their parents did not receive good education about parenting, love and problem solving techniques?
Because Parenting, Love Education and Problem Solving Techniques have never really been taught in schools or at home?
That is a good question! Don't really have an answer for that one.
Maybe because no one ever took the time to develop a Love Education Curriculum and parents never demanded that parenting and Love Education be taught to children, young adults and themselves?
Why??? Seems almost absurd, doesn't it? That type of education seems fairly important to creating happy, healthy individuals.

OK, so a brief re-cap of what we learned. A person's low self esteem may have come from people being mean or bullying them, because those people have internal issues that were never addressed, because they were not given adequate training or guidance to help them become more emotionally and mentally stable (EQ and IQ). Thus they down-loaded their problems on you and they are partly to blame for you having low self esteem.

So what are you going to do about it? Perhaps start by realizing how many amazing good qualities you have and forgiving yourself for the mistakes you have made in the past. Now that you are aware of the root cause, there is no need to "own" your negative feelings about yourself and you can focus on your positive attributes and grow from a place of strength, instead of a place of weakness. You may still need to listen to some of your critics, but you don't have to believe everything they tell you. If they are offering advice that helps you grow, take it to heart. If not, discard it but recognize that if their criticism makes you really upset, there may be a kernel of truth that you need to address.

Tool #2 - "Index Card" Problem Solving Method (IC-PSM)

You can use this PSM to sort out and prioritize numerous issues you and your partner may need to work on.

1. Identify all the issues you want to address, perhaps after you completed the four evaluation tools from section 2.3.
2. On index cards or on pieces of paper that you have cut into squares, write all the issues down that you identified in the previous step. Now lay them out and organize them into two groups: Individual issues and Relationship issues.
3. Re-organize them from the biggest, most difficult issues at the top and the most minor issues at the bottom.
4. Now you can write the issues down on two separate pieces of paper (individual issues and relationship issues) in the order you just arranged them. It is often best to start working on individual issues first since solving some of those issues will sometimes reduce the problems you are having in your relationship.
5. Next, prioritize the ones you would like to fix first, second, third, etc. 6. Decide if you really want to tackle the most difficult issue(s) first, or perhaps it may be better to solve an easier challenge first, just to get your feet wet and gain some confidence. Now that you have organized the problems using the Index card problem-solving method (IC-PSM) it is time to use some of the other problem solving tools you are learning in order to further define root causes and alternative solutions.

An alternate way to use the Index Card technique is to turn it into a game we call the Index Card Problem Solving Game (IC-PSG).

1. After writing down all the issues you want to address on the index cards or pieces of paper, mix them up and put them in a bag or box. Also throw in a couple index cards with fun items written on them like "give your partner a kiss", "tell them something wonderful about them", "describe something wonderful about yourself", "meditate for 3-5 minutes", "say a prayer", "relax!", "think of something funny", and whatever else that will make this fun and not quite so serious.
2. Take one index card out and write down a few ideas you have that might help solve the problem in your "ISSUES / GOALS / MORNING PAGES" journal or on a piece of paper. After that, you might want to use the 5 Whys PSM and find the root cause(s). If you run into a roadblock and can't solve the issue right away, don't stress too much about it. Remember that you are trying to reduce stress, not add more to your life. Come back later when you have had more time to analyze the problem and have fresh new perspectives.
3. Take another index card from out and repeat step 2. Do this as many times as you want until it is time to take a break. Rome was not built in a day. Come back and work on these issues when you have the time and a positive frame of mind.

Tool #3 - "Alternative Solutions" Problem Solving Method (AS-PSM)

Phase 1: The goal of this problem solving method is to brain storm as many possible solutions as you can think of to solve a particular problem and then narrow it down to the best several solutions, realizing there is seldom just one way to solve a problem. During this predominantly right-brained session, don't get hung up on grammar, spelling, rambling or other left brain mathematical over-sight. Left brain "math and criticism" can quickly halt the rapid flow of intuitive and creative ideas. When you are finished coming up with both "genius, crazy and funny" ideas from this phase, you can move on to the next step.

Phase 2: On another page write down the emotions and feelings being experienced by ALL parties and their corresponding relationships. Partner, Family, friends, children, neighbors, co-workers and more. For example, let's say you are being bullied at school or at home.
Phase 1: Using uncontrolled free-for-all brainstorming you could come up with the following obvious, creative, crazy and possibly unrealistic ideas:
Beat up the bully. Tell the teachers you are being bullied. Tell him you disapprove of his insults. Tell your parents to discuss the problem with his parents. Discuss the problem with family and friends and ask for their advice. Tell yourself that he has serious internal issues that make him insecure and that causes him to be a bully, and now you can take pity on him instead of internalizing the insults he hurls at you and others. Realize that his Dad is likely a bully and he has learned these awful traits from him. Realize that maybe you are just different from him and he is picking on you because you are different - He has no sympathy or empathy for diversity, which is a spice of life - How boring it would be if we were all the same! Move to another country. Go into hiding. Switch to another school. Eat more ice cream :) Ask him to join you eating ice cream. Get a bigger bully to tell him to stop. Just ignore him and don't bother listening to him any more. Put on your earbuds and tune him out. What else leaps into your mind?
Side note: Do you think that the school shootings are part of the bullying problem and that young adults resort to extreme solutions, thus causing many fellow students and teachers to be murdered and the young shooters to ruin the rest of their lives?
Maybe educators and law makers need to use the "5 Whys" to solve that problem?

Ok, so what 5 or so solutions look like they might be the best for this bullying situation after completing Phase 1?

In our case, we stood up to the bully and he beat us up, but then left us alone after that, possibly because we stood up to him? Plus we soon realized that he had family problems. We felt pity for him and realized he had a tough future ahead of him because of his family issues. One great thing learned from the situation: Standing up for oneself and not accepting or internalizing unjust criticism is empowering!
In reflection, standing up to the bully was probably not the best solution since it was made out of anger, not reasoning or using problem solving techniques. But there was little education given to us on how to solve problems back then, thus rash decisions were often made.

Phase 2: In order to understand the thoughts and perceptions, feelings and emotions involved in the situation, write them down:
Anger, Rage, Hatred, Adrenalin, Resentment, Discrimination, Prejudice, Injustice, Division, Contempt, Distrust, Hurt feelings, Damaged Ego, Uncertainty, Stress, Belittlement, Retribution, Revenge, Fear, Concern, Uncertainty, Faith, Hope, Strategies, Discouragement, Dejection, Depression, Sadness, Hopelessness, ....
Now that you've completed the second phase and released bottled-up feelings you may not even have realized you were holding in, you can do another review of the best solutions currently available to you. By releasing feelings it can help you think more clearly and take some "emotion" out of your decisions. You don't want your emotions to affect your judgment prior to implementing the solution(s). But yet you need to address your emotions in order to realize how important (or unimportant) this problem actually is.
More solutions may present themselves to you soon in dreams, from your subconscious (daydreams), or by using other tools and methods.

After deciding upon the top 3-5 or so solutions, perhaps you will be able to choose the best one that works for you, or perhaps you might try several of them and see which one gives the best results. The point is that you need to have several options. You can sometimes utilize them all at the same time, or you can try them one after another until you get the results you are hoping for. Or maybe you will need to use different PSM's (Problem Solving Methods) to tackle the problem. By keeping an open mind and trying different methods, you will likely find appropriate solutions.

Tool #4 - "What If" Problem Solving Method (WI-PSM)

Play the what if game. What if we did this, What if we did that? Then what might happen?
Analyze each "what if" answer that you come up with and review whether it is feasible and desirable and if so, how would you make it become a reality?

Example 1, What If we did research together on improving our communication skills? What might happen if we were successful?
Our relationship would improve, we would be happier, less fights, more respect, more love, what else?

Example 2: What if we completed Love Education exercises and problem solving methods together or alone? What might happen?
Is our relationship with ourself or our significant other strong enough to withstand facing the truth? If not, what might that tell us? If we are ready to face the truth, then a little understanding and guidance might actually help our relationship?

Tool #5 - "In Their Shoes" Problem Solving Method (ITS-PSM)

1. Choose a problem to solve and then write down everything you can about it from the viewpoint of standing in your own shoes. Write down the facts, feelings, fears, hopes, benefits and possible consequences from your perspective.

2. On another piece of paper, write down everything you can about it from the viewpoint of standing in their shoes. Write down the facts, feelings, fears, hopes, benefits and possible consequences from what you think their perspective might be.

Write down potential biases, prejudices and history that might not allow you or them to see the problem objectively and accurately.

After you have exhausted everything you can think of, review and organize the issues, perhaps using the Index Card PSM, and search for solutions to the issues you have uncovered.

Tool #6 - "The Six Thinking Hats" Problem Solving Model (6TH-PSM)

The Six Thinking Hats was created by Edward de Bono, and published in his 1985 book of the same name.
This PSM is useful with groups or on your own. In groups, it has the value of reducing confrontation that can happen when people with differing thinking styles and points of view discuss a problem, because every perspective is valid and should be accounted for, even if you strongly disagree with their opinions.

Each Thinking Hat is a different style of thinking.

White Hat: With this "logical" thinking hat, you focus on the available data using logic. Look at the information that you have, analyze past trends, and see what you can learn from it. Look for gaps in your knowledge. What information are you missing?

Red Hat: When you put on the "intuitive" Red Hat, you look at problems using your intuition, gut feelings, and emotion. Also, think how others might react emotionally. Try to guess the responses of people who do not fully understand or agree with your reasoning.

Yellow Hat: Wearing the "optimistic" yellow hat helps you to think positively. It is the optimistic viewpoint that helps you to see all the benefits of the solutions and the value in them. The glass is at least half full. Yellow Hat thinking helps you to keep going when everything looks gloomy and difficult.

Green Hat: Using the "creative" Green Hat is where you develop creative solutions to a problem. It is a brain-storming way of thinking, in which there is little criticism of ideas. You just try to get as many ideas on paper as quickly as possible without much concern for logic. This is often where unusual and hidden options are generated.

Black Hat: Wearing the "critical" Black Hat, you look at a decision's potentially negative outcomes. Look at it carefully and thoroughly. Try to see why it might not work. This is important because it highlights the weak points in any plan. It allows you to reduce them, alter them, or prepare contingency plans to counter them.
Black Hat thinking helps to make your plans "tougher" and more resilient. It can also help you to spot fatal flaws and risks before you employ your course of action. Many overly optimistic people get so used to thinking positively that they often cannot see the possible down-sides in advance. This leaves them ill-prepared for unexpected difficulties.

Blue Hat: This "directors/mentors" hat represents process control. It's the hat worn by people organizing, directing and encouraging the discussions. When facing difficulties because ideas are running dry, they may direct activity into Green Hat thinking. When contingency plans are needed, they may ask for Black Hat thinking.

This PSM allows an individual or team to re-frame the challenge as an opportunity prior to starting the problem solving process. This method enables a team to solve problems with a focus on generating lasting change and improvement. You begin by discussing the issue you are going to work on and exploring the ways in which it causes problems before splitting into the five teams who will each consider the problem wearing the five different hats (the sixth Blue Hat guides and oversees the process). After each team has concluded their analysis they then get together and present their findings to the group. After combining all the data obtained, the group can attempt to find a consensus and develop an action plan. If necessary, the groups can then change members and repeat the process wearing different hats if further analysis is desired. Or perhaps the group may decide that everyone wears the same hat in order to discover more alternative solutions using that one type of thinking.

Tool #7 - "What Has Happened" Problem Solving Method (WHH-PSM)

This tool is useful to help individuals and couples understand how they ended up in the situation they find themselves in, how you actually got to where you are now; your current reality. Let's say that you are having some personal issues or your relationship is having some difficulties. What are the problems you are currently facing? Now take each difficulty and work backwards to determine what actions / lack of actions happened that caused each difficulty. The "5 Whys" might be helpful in finding out the root causes after you determine the key issues from working backwards.

We do not spend as much quality time together as we did before.
Working backwards:
a) We have been very busy lately with the kid's school and sports activities.
b) We have financial issues which are causing us stress.
c) My husband has been working longer hours because we have these financial issues.
d) We are spending more than we can afford because we have not established a budget.
e) We have not established a budget because we have not made the time to do so.
f) We have not been communicating very well because of the stress.
g) Because of poor communication we are sometimes not very happy with each other.
h) We are spending more free time with friends instead of personal time with each other.
i) By the end of the day we are usually very tired.
j) Because of the above issues, we have not had shared many of the 6 types of intimacy.
k) We are not as passionate as before, now that we are past the infatuation phase.
l) When we try to have intimate time together we are usually distracted and not very attentive.
m) Things seem to be spiraling out of control.

You may notice that this PSM is similar to the "5 Whys" except that it lists all the issues and does not address just one particular problem to determine the exact sequence of events and root cause. Thus, this method brings to the surface all of the issues so that you can see "what has happened" and why. You can dig deeper and use the "5 Whys" on the most problematic issues found to determine the root cause(s).

Now that some of the difficulties have been mapped out you can begin to search for the solutions that will lead to a course-correction and get you on a route that will lead to happier times. It appears that poor communication might be a key issue. If you can sit down to discuss the problems then you might be able to develop a plan to work on your finances and time-management objectives so that you can reduce the stress load on both of you. By working together to solve / reduce the issues you will likely start communicating better and feel a greater sense of hope for the future.
Perhaps you will both need to improve your communication skills? Be sure to establish communication guidelines so that finding solutions becomes the goal, instead of determining who is more at fault. Use mindful communication to stay civil and calm.
When you have hope and a plan, stress will likely be reduced and you can enjoy spending more time on the 6 types of intimacy together. Using intellectual intimacy, you will need to develop some goals and the corresponding action plans to achieve those goals.

Tool #8 - "Numbers In A Bowl" game / Problem Solving Method (NIAB-PSM)

This game can be played by yourself as as a group.
By randomly working on the two lists of questions shown below, one list for feelings and emotions and the other for logic and facts, you can create a fairly detailed analysis for issues and problems you choose to address.
Realize that not all questions listed below will apply to every issue, individual or group.
Answer the questions, or the portion of a question that apply and mark the others as "N/A", Not-Applicable.

Cut a piece of paper into small squares and write a number on each one for the questions you are going to address in this game. Put all the numbers into a bowl or bag. Choose an issue you want to solve and write it at the top of a piece of paper. Now take a number out of the bowl and write down your answers to that question. Repeat the process until you have answered all the questions. If you have a large group involved in this discovery process, you may want to split into small groups with each group working on maybe 3-5 questions. After each group has finished with their analysis, you can get together to review and discuss the answers each group developed.

By picking the numbers randomly, it allows you to bounce around thus promoting a greater possibilty to be creative and imaginative. It also makes the discovery and analysis less formal and regimented. Thus you approach every issue you work on in future games in different orders.
If you prefer, you can skip the bowl and just answer the questions as listed or hop around to the most important or interesting ones first. The choice is yours. Choose whatever works best for you or the group.
By keeping it random though, you may first address some questions you didn't realize were important because of our built in biases we don't always know we have. Other times we Absolutely know we have bias and prejudices and choose to ignore them because we Know we are right!
When you do get to the "important" questions, it may help you by having considered new perceptions and revised perspectives prior to answering the "big ones". You might even leave those numbers out of the bowl until the end. Do you see how you can adapt this game to fit the particular situation you are addressing? It certainly allows for you to structure the game to only include the questions you want or need to address, and in the order you want to address them.

After answering all the questions, analyze what you have brainstormed and sort out which questions and answers seem to provide the best insight and relevance to the problem and solution you are working on. You may want to prioritize them by importance so that you can go into deeper analysis on the top issues.
If you want, you can repeat the game again later, now that you have a better handle on the situation. You may even choose to only add the numbers that were identified as the most important and start the game over using only those in a random sequence.

This discovery game is split into two parts, just as our brains are. You may choose to start with the right brain side and discover feelings, emotions, creativity, hopes and fears. Or you may want to start with the left brain side and record the facts, logic, benefits and consequences (pro's and con's) first. Once again the choice is yours.

You may notice that some of the questions seem similar for both the right side and left side discovery phases. That can help you realize that depending on which thinking cap you are wearing at any given time (which side of the brain you are using), the answers can be vastly different. Thus when dealing with others, and you are arguing from one side and they are presenting their case from the other side of the brain, it may be very difficult to have a "meeting of the minds". Just keep that in the back of your head when trying to reach mutually agreeable solutions. Are you both working from just the facts or just from emotions? And are your emotions over-ruling any chance of seeing the facts correctly, or are you perceptions of the facts over-ruling any chance of seeing the feelings and emotions correctly? When someone only cares about their feelings, facts seldom matter to them. When someone only cares about the facts, feelings seldom matter to them. You see it in social media arguments everyday! Just be aware of this and it can help you immensly. To be balanced and "whole" you need to see and comprehend both facts and feelings. That is the point of this PSM; to help you become a whole brain thinker and thus find greater balance, success, happiness, peace and love in your life.

Right Brain "Numbers in a Bowl" game: Feelings and Emotions

1. What are your dominant feeling and emotions? Their deepest feelings and emotions?
2. What are your crucial values? Their main values?
3. What are your top goals? Their key goals?
4. How does this issue affect your happiness? Theirs?
5. How does it affect your Peace? Theirs?
6. What are your biggest hopes, fears and concerns? What are theirs?
7. What is your history regarding this issue? Their history?
8. What are your key dislikes, your deal-buster issues and "non-negotiable" points? What are theirs?
9. Are they giving you the respect you deserve? Are you giving them the respect they deserve?
10. Is your pride, ego and self-esteem being attacked? Is theirs?
11. Are you being treated fairly and equally? Are they being treated fairly and equally?
12. Are you being discriminated against? Are they being discriminated against?
13. Do you believe justice is being served? Do they?
14. Do they follow the Golden Rule and treat you as they treat themselves?
15. Are you following the Golden Rule and treating them as you want to be treated?
16. Do they Love you as they love themselves? Do you Love them as you love yourself?
17. Are your belonging and inclusion needs being met? Are theirs?
18. Do you have an open mind to resolve the issue and make compromises? Do they?
19. Do you want this issue solved quickly? Do they?
20. Is this issue critical to you? To them?
21. If not resolved, will it continue to affect your health and happiness? How about theirs?
22. On a scale of 1 (minor) to 10 (major) how important is this issue to you from an emotional viewpoint? To them?
23. What else should be included in these emotional right brain questions?

Left Brain: "Numbers in a Bowl" game: Facts and Logic

1. Why is this issue important to you? To them?
2. Is it the right issue to work on first?
3. Why are we/I having this problem?
4. Why haven't we/I solved it yet?
5. Why do we/I need to solve it?
6. What are the facts in this issue from your POV (Point of View)? From theirs?
7. How long has this issue been a problem for you? For them?
8. Do you have any biases, pride or prejudice regarding this issue? Do they?
9. Do you believe they should appreciate your POV? Do you believe you should understand their POV?
10. Do you believe they will agree to your requests/demands? Do you believe you will agree to theirs? If not, what can be done?
11. What other individuals or groups might help you solve this problem?
12. Who has the most to lose?
13. Who has the most to gain?
14. Who doesn't seem to care?
15. Who is at the mercy of the other?
16. Who is most likely to go berserk?
17. Are you educated enough to understand both sides of the issue? Are they?
18. What type of training/tools might be necessary to help find a solution?
19. Who has the most expertise?
20. Who has the most power?
21. Who has the more powerful allies?
22. Who is currently controlling the issue?
23. Is your personal safety and security at risk? Is theirs?
24. Are other family members safety and security at risk?
25. If a solution can be found, how important would it be to you? To them?
26. If a solution can not be found, how devastating would it be to you? To them?
27. What is the desired future from your point of view? From their point of view?
28. What is the undesired future from your point of view? From their point of view?
29. How long do you think it will take to reach an agreement?
30. If you can reach an agreement, how long can you make it last? What measures should be in place to ensure it lasts?
31. Where should the location be to discuss the issue(s)?
32. How might religion, race, nationality, ethnicity, gender, financial wealth, distrust and retribution/vengeance affect the probability of a successful solution? How can these factors be countered to allow justice, respect, improvement and peace to have a chance to advance?
33. What action plan and steps are you using, or planning to use? What action plan and steps are they using, or might they use to counter your actions? 34. At what point can you begin testing and implementing a strategy?
35. What might happen if you can't reach an agreement or compromise?
36. What might happen if you do reach an agreement or compromise?
37. On a scale of 1 (minor) to 10 (major) how important is this issue to you from a logical viewpoint? To them?
38. What else should be included in these logical left brain questions?
In summary, after answering all the questions, analyze what you have deciphered and deduced and sort out which questions and answers seem to provide the best insight and relevance. You may want to prioritize them by importance so that you can go into deeper analysis on the key issues. What should the action plan be in order to implement the alternative solutions you will develop and deploy? You may want to put these results into a flow chart and help you see the process and steps needed in order to achieve the key goals.

In a group situation, if you don't get all parties to agree prior to developing the action plan and implementing the solution(s), you are most likely doomed to failure. In other words, work together whenever possible or suffer the consequences!

The last point is that you really need to address BOTH sides of the issues.
You need to see things from your Point of View and from the other sides' POV.
You need to see things from the logical left brain and from the emotional right brain.
To just see one side only gives you half the information you need to solve the problem.
How many of us can successfully solve our problems with only half of the data?
We surely can not. Can you?

Tool #9 - Golden Rule & Love Your Neighbor Problem Solving Method (GRLYN-PSM)

This PSM is very similar to the "In Their Shoes" (ITS-PSM) except that this deals with the way things could be if all parties truly followed the Golden Rule, instead of the way reality actually has turned out. The ITS-PSM is where you are now and how to move forward, while the GRLYN-PSM is where we should be if we all followed the Golden Rule, a Rule that nearly every major religion has as one of their main tenents or creeds.

1. Choose an issue to solve and then write down what reality would be like if all parties truly followed the Golden Rule, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you" and also the "Love your Neighbor" commandment.

2. On one piece of paper write down the things You would need to do or correct in order to create and ensure justice, equity, respect and reparation. How would you follow these rules and make things right?

3. On another piece of paper write down the things the other party(s) would need to do or correct in order to create and ensure justice, equality, respect and reparation.

4. Write down not just logical/process things that would need to be addressed but also the hurt feelings and respect issues that will need apologies, repairing and forgiveness. What reparations would need to be given to the other side to repay them for the pain, damages, inequity and injustices that were inflicted on them? What would the benefits be from treating the other party the way nearly every religions command us to treat them? Do you believe in the Golden Rule? Does it only apply to some people? Perhaps only to those who claim to be religious? Do their actions show that they even care about the Golden Rule and obeying religious commandments? Can they truly be considered God loving people if they fail to follow the Golden Rule and the "Love Thy Neighbor" commandment? How will God judge them?

5. After you have exhausted everything you can think of, review and organize the facts, perceptions, feelings and biases, perhaps using the Index Card PSM, and search for solutions to the subjects you have uncovered. After organizing and prioritizing the issues you may want to create an action plan using the following Flow Chart PSM.

Tool #10 - "Flow Chart" Problem Solving Method (FC-PSM)

Click Here to print this Flow Chart : June 21, 2020, Rev. A

Flow Charts can be used to diagram the problem solving process and help create a more visual map of the Issues you want to analyze and solve. You can use these in conjunction with nearly all the PSM's discussed so far, or just start working on a Flow Chart from scratch. Flow Charts are useful to create visual action plans for achieving the results and goals you establish.

You don't actually have to write inside each geometric shape since the "issues and actions" you need to write down are often several sentences. If using this pre-made form you can write a brief one or two word note to show the issue or action for each shape and then have a detailed page which goes into expanded details for each stage in your Flow Chart.

If you create your own Flow Chart on a blank sheet of paper you can go into greater detail and then draw the shape around the words you have written afterwards. Thus if you have numerous actions for each root cause you are not limited to the one or two rectangles shown on the blamk flow chart shown here. You may need several sheets of paper laid side by side in order to create this larger road map but you can tape them together if you want.

From Left to Right:

1. Issues in Squares
2. Root Causes in Circles
3. Actions in Rectangles
4. Potential Difficulties in Ovals
5. Time Frame in Triangles
6. Review, Measure and Learn in Hexagons
7. Results and Goals in Diamonds
8. 2nd Level Goals in more Diamonds
9. 3rd Level Goals in even more Diamonds

1. Issue = Anger when communicating difficult issues with partner.
2. Root Causes = [1] Can't or will not admit mistakes & [2] Poor listening skills.
3. Possible Actions = [1a] Be willing to admit fault, [1b] Don't force your opinion on others, [1c] Use Time-outs when things get heated.
[2a] Learn Active Listening, [2b] Learn improved communication skills.
4. Potential Difficulties = [1a] Partner not interested in improving. [1b] Change takes time.
[2a] Possible hearing or attention deficit disorders. [2b] Unwillingness to turn off TV.
5. Time frame = Whatever you both agree is reasonable for each action.
6. Review, Measure and Learn = [1a] Are you both finally admitting faults? [1b] What additional actions might be needed? (add new rectangles on the chart here if needed).
[2a] Are you now actively listening to each other? [2b] Is one partner still talking over the other? [2c] What additional actions might be needed? (add new rectangles on the chart here if needed).
7. Results and Goals = [1a] Finally admitting faults. [1b] Anger Reduced. [1c] Relationship improved. [1d] Family life improved.
[2a] Attentive listening improved. [2b] Communications improved.
If these are not the results you achieved, create a new flow chart to address the unresolved issues and start working on those.

8. 2nd Level Results and Goals: Assuming you achieved the 1st level goals and results, where are you going from there? Maybe there are other anger and communication issues to be solved that can be listed here?

9. 3rd Level Results and Goals: Assuming you achieved the 2nd level goals and results, where are you going from there? What else do you want to improve in your relationship? More time together, more time alone, more support from your partner, a cleaner house, less over-spending of finances, as a few examples.

And the goals keep going until you have achieved all the results you need and desire, which means you will probably need to set new goals for the rest of your life. (:

Tool #11 - "Remove the Cause, or Dampen the Effect" Problem Solving Method (RCDE-PSM)

There are two main ways to solve a problem:
1) Remove the cause, or 2) Dampen the effect.
You can either fix or remove the problems you have identified, or dampen the effect either through compromise, reduction of the scale of the problem(s), by learning to accept the issues as a condition of an otherwise healthy relationship, or find other creative solutions.

Example 1, Sewage in a river.
1) Remove the source of the sewage.
2) Dampen the effect by moving up-river or somewhere else; or build a sewage treatment plant to reduce the amount of pollution.

Example 2, COVID-19 infections and deaths.
1) Remove the virus or stop it from coming to your community. Now that the virus has spread into a global pandemic, this option is no longer available.
2) Dampen the effect by wearing a mask or face covering, observing social distancing, disinfecting hands and surfaces frequently, avoiding large crowds (especially indoor crowds), avoid locations where yelling, loud talking, singing and heavy breathing causes the virus to spread greater than 2 meters, stay home as much as possible, listen to the advice of the health experts (if they are not being suppressed by your government).
Realize that the younger population tends to believe they will survive the virus and thus they are exposing themselves more often and receiving greater viral loads. Then they unknowingly bring high doses of the virus home to their parents and grandparents, putting them at an even greater risk of death.
Eventually we will dampen the effect even further when vaccines and treatments are developed but until then we need to utilize all measures to reduce the spread if we want to save the lives of our loved ones.

Example 3, Boundary issues in your relationships.
1) Remove the offending party from your relationship (be it a "friend", family member, social media contact, etc).
2) Dampen the effect by informing the offender that they are crossing over your boundaries and you demand greater respect.
Inform them which boundaries are being crossed and discuss ways to improve the situation. Perhaps they do not realize they are invading your space and not being sensitive to your needs?
Understand that boundary problems are not just the inability to tell people No. You also need to clearly understand and define your boundaries to yourself and others. Don't assume they should know and understand your boundaries.

Boundary issues come in at least four categories and you or the offender may possess several:
The Compliant: saying "ok" to the bad. Letting others get away with bad behavior and cross the line.
The Avoidant: saying "no" to the good. Putting up unnecessary walls which could possibly hurt healthy relationships. For instance you block love from others because you are afraid they will hurt you.
The Controller: not respecting others' boundaries and not caring.
The Nonresponsive: not hearing the needs of others, perhaps because they did not grow up understanding boundary issues.

By realizing the types of boundaries that are important in your relationships you can reduce the ill efffects by being aware and informing others when they are disrepecting those boundaries. If after being informed they still do not give you proper respect, you will likley need to use other problem solving methods or remove them from the equation.

Tool #12 - "Trial & Error" Problem Solving Method (T&E-PSM)

Most of us have heard of the Trial and Error PSM. Just think of Thomas Edison and his 99 ways not to make a light bulb. He failed "99" times but continued trying knowing someday he would probably succeed, especially since he was learning so much from his "failures". Looked at from the optimist's point of view (wearing a yellow hat), he was learning from his "minor successes" so that he could achieve a "major success". That is what you are trying to achieve using the T&E PSM. It relieves some of the pressure from having to "get it right" the very first try. You can gently try one thing and see what happens before going "full steam ahead" with the entire Implementation Plan (IP).

Brainstorm as many possible trials you can think of and then prioritize them in the order you want to conduct your experiments. The more trials you can dream up, the better. Some of them you will never even use but they may give you some insights to apply to the trials that are worth trying. Some of the results of the trials will likely provide you with clues as to which trial you should try next.

For instance you try giving your partner flowers before discussing something that may be tense. Did it have any affect on the conversation or did they accuse you of trying to soften them up be before "delivering the blow" :) What did you learn from this trial? Maybe you should have gone on a picnic or out to dinner instead? Perhaps during a walk in the park would have been more advantageous? Maybe you should have just asked if you could talk about the topic? What other trials can you think of to improve your chances of success?

In summary, the T&E PSM is a way to test the waters before actually going swimming. By trying different things and analyzing the results, you begin to formulate better plans that will help you achieve major successes.

Tool #13 - "IF-THEN" Problem Solving Method (IT-PSM)

The IF-THEN PSM describes what you will do in circumstances that come up in your day to day life, and when you are implementing new plans. It has a simple 2 step process:

1) IF this happens,
2) THEN you will do that.
You can then think of possible/likely scenarios that come up on occasion and decide upon sensible responses to reduce the odds of negative outcomes.

It can become a more complex PSM by adding "AND" or "OR":
1) IF this happens AND this happens, OR this happens,
2) THEN you will do that.

Imagine you start getting into a heated argument with your partner.
IF this happens, THEN I will remain calm and use the mindfulness and stress reduction techniques (coming soon) I have learned. If necessary, we will take a "time-out" until we can de-escalate the argument and continue the discussion after we have calmed down.
By having an IF-THEN tool in your tool bag, you are prepared for the times you will need that tool to save you from a near certain negative outcome.

Another example is you decide to proceed with one of your Implementation Plans (IP's).
Perhaps you want to discuss "boundary issues" or "intimacy" or "parenting"?
After initiating the conversation, IF the direction is going in a positive direction, AND your partner is actually being attentive, THEN you may move forward and bring up other related topics you want to expand upon.
IF the discussion is heading negative, THEN you can end the conversation OR switch to another topic before things start to get out of control. Attempt to avoid pressing one of their hot buttons, thereby sabotaging any chance of a fruitful consensus.
Perhaps you could agree to proper ways of discussing "difficult issues" prior to starting any "deep" discussions / compromises.

Try to think of as many IF-THEN scenarios as possible that so that you are better prepared for nearly every challenge or opportunity in your current reality. The point is to have confidence that no matter what difficulties or direction your plan goes, you have a plan B, C, D, etc. in your back pocket.
Thus fear and uncertainty do not stop you from enacting your plans and slow down your progress towards a healthy and happy life and relationship.

IF-THEN's can also be used to establish ground rules in your relationship that you can both agree upon.
They become the "IF-THEN Guidelines" or protocols.
Here are several detailed examples:

RULE #1 - Communication Issues
IF one party wants to discuss a sensitive topic,
THEN we will agree to the following 2 items:
a) We will establish a place, time and duration to discuss the topic.
b) We will agree to come to an agreement or set-up another time to negotiate a compromise.

RULE #2 - Arguments
IF we start raising our voices at each other (which may be a trigger for one or both parties),
THEN we agree to do the following 3 things:
a) Agree to either be mindful, considerate and open-minded; or agree to take a time-out.
b) Relax and de-stress for 15 - 45 minutes.
c) After de-stressing (or at least attempting to), determine if you should continue or wait until a better time.

RULE #3 - Intimacy
IF one of us feels that we need more of the 10 types of intimacy in our lives,
THEN we will agree to the following options:
a) Discuss the type of intimacy that is requested. Perhaps it is more time enjoying each others' companionship or more family time?
b) Determine a plan to address and improve that desired goal.
c) Implement the plan by establishing activities, times and places to achieve this goal.
d) Monitor, review and evaluate how the plan is working.
e) Make course corrections if necessary.
f) Celebrate this new improvement in your relationship by having a nice dinner together or some other reward.

Other guidelines you may want to create protocols for could include: Boundaries, Time together / apart, Friends, In-Laws, Parenting, House keeping, Decision making negotiations, Financial decisions, Employment decisions, Cognitive learning needs, Support and esteem needs, Aesthetic needs, Vacation needs, Relationship and Love needs, Self actualization needs, Couple actualization needs, etc.

Both parties should agree to the "terms of engagement" or it is probably a waste of time to create these protocols.
You can both write the issues that are most important or disturbing to you and go over them together and develop your own IF's and THEN's (a, b & c's).

In a sense, these become relationship vows. They can be cited as Rule #1, 2 or 3, article a, b, c, d, etc.
It may be helpful to remind each other occasionally that we agreed to these guidelines in order to create a healthy, loving relationship so we either stick with them, revise them or suffer the consequences.
If you are writing these IF-THENS for personal, instead of relationship guidelines, the process is the same. It is a good way to keep yourself on track when you are having internal struggles, conflicts, challenges or opportunities. The bottom line is to have procedures in place so that you gain confidence in yourself for having established sensible solutions for difficult situations that come up during your life.

You may want to add these to your Master Journal as a reminder of your agreements.

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