Sharpen Your Problem Solving Skills
Excerpted from Teen Practical Life Skills
By Ester R.A. Leutenberg and John L. Liptak, EdD
There are, in general, four problem-solving styles:
- Social sensitive thinking
- Logical thinking
- Intuitive thinking
- Practical thinking
A social sensitive thinking problem solving style is one in which you want to find the best answer for all people involved (focusing primarily on their emotions and values, and you are most comfortable when they add emotion to the problem situation.) You depend on what has been successful for you in the past, rather than focusing on the facts of this new issue. You try to put yourself in the other person’s place so that you can identify with the person. You will solve problems based on your value system that respects other people in a situation. You are caring and want to support everyone involved in the problem. This indicates a high level of interpersonal skills.
Here are some indicators that you use the social sensitive thinking style:
- You are considerate to others in the situation.
- You are guided by your own personal issues.
- You are compassionate.
- You assess the impact of the problem on other people.
- You want everyone to be satisfied in the situation.
- Others call you caring and/or compassionate.
- You always try to treat others fairly.
- You believe that positive interactions are important in solving problems.
A logical thinking problem solving style involves the exploration of the problem and the effects of your environment. Using this style, you identify the problem that has occurred, explore alternatives in solving the problem, and develop a plan for solving the problem based on information. You carefully weigh the costs and benefits of the various ways to solve the problem. You gather and consider additional information about alternatives and the possible consequences of each alternative. The ultimate solution you find to the problem is based on a logical problem-solving approach.
Here are some indicators that you use the logical thinking style:
- You are analytical.
- You look for possible solutions to problems.
- You rely on your good judgment.
- You are reasonable.
- You have good common sense.
- You want everyone to be treated equally.
- You develop solutions and then choose the best options.
- You remove yourself emotionally from the situation.
An intuitive thinking problem solving style is one in which you solve problems based on gut-level reactions. You tend to rely on your internal signals. You identify and choose a solution based on what you feel is the best possible solution for everyone involved. You do not spend a lot of time collecting facts and gathering information before you decide on a solution. This style can be useful when factual data is not available. It is important not to substitute intuition for gathering needed information to solve the problem. You often solve problems based on hunches or your sixth-sense about the problem situation.
Here are some indicators that you use the intuitive thinking style:
- You consider the future.
- You communicate creatively.
- You develop imaginative solutions to problems.
- You reach solutions quickly, based on your hunches.
- You look for similarities in other problems you have needed to solve.
- You need the problem to make sense to you.
- You are able to see new possibilities.
- You see the big picture.
A practical thinking problem solving style is one in which you take in information that is clear and real. You want to know what is happening in the situation. You notice what is going on around you, especially the practical realities and facts. You may overlook recurring themes, focusing instead on the concrete issues involved in the situation. You rely on and trust your previous experience in dealing with similar problems.
Here are some indicators that you use the practical thinking style:
- You stick with it until you find a solution to a problem.
- You focus on what is really happening.
- You trust your experience from previous problem situations.
- You trust facts rather than other people.
- You are perceptive.
- You are able to remember specific facts about the problem.
- You understand ideas through practical applications.
- You carefully work toward conclusions.
The Problem-Solving Process
There is no simple step-by-step process that will guarantee you a solution to every problem you encounter in your life. The problem-solving process is a search for, and implementation of, the best possible solution for a specific problem. As a problem solver, you will develop your own method for solving problems. One of the best ways of doing this is to try to use the most effective aspects of the four different styles. The following is an outline of how to integrate the four styles in the problem-solving process. Before you begin, write down a problem you are currently struggling with.______________________________________________________. Use this issue when working through the following steps:
Step 1 – Define the problem by using practical thinking characteristics to see the problem situation as it really is. You can do so by answering some of the following questions:
- What or who caused the problem?
- Where did it happen?
- What happened?
- When did it happen?
- With whom did it happen?
- Why did it happen?
- What was your part in the situation?
- What was resolved?
Step 2 – Consider the possibilities using intuitive thinking characteristics to brainstorm all possible solutions to the problem. You can do so by answering some of the following questions:
- What other ways did you look at the problem?
- What did you learn by information you gathered?
- What were the connections to the bigger picture?
- How did the other people fit into this picture?
- What did you think caused the problem?
- What were some possible ways to approach the problem?
Step 3 – Weigh the consequences of courses of action to resolve the problem using logical thinking characteristics. You can do so by answering some of the following questions:
- What were the pros of each option?
- What were the cons of each option?
- What do you think would have been the outcomes of each option?
- What was the result for each person involved?
Step 4 – Weigh the alternatives to each course of action using social sensitive thinking characteristics. You can do so by answering some of the following questions:
- How did each alternative fit with your values?
- How were the other people involved in the situation affected?
- How did each alternative help everyone involved?
- How did each alternative enhance positive interactions?
Step 5 – Decide which aspects of Steps 1 – 4 will be most effective in solving this problem.
Step 6 – Act on your decision.
Step 7 – Evaluate whether the problem was resolved successfully.