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Author Topic: 1.02 | Effective Problem Solving Models and Approaches.  (Read 736 times)
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« on: December 07, 2018, 10:54:11 AM »

Effective Problem Solving Models and Approaches

Problem solving with a highly emotional family member is challenging. It's important that we don't get caught up in the emotion of the family member and deviate from good problem solving skills. These skills won't always work, but statistically, we should do better with them.

We generally have four choices when there is a problem affecting our relationship with our BPD loved one:

  1. Radically accept the problem
2. Change how we view/feel about the problem
3. Solve the problem
4. Stay stuck and miserable

Keeping in mind that we consistently have 3 goals at any given moment in time (objective effectiveness, relationship effectiveness, self respect effectiveness) we will need to have very good interpersonal effectiveness to be successful at cooperative problem solving.

Using the DEAR MAN technique and strategizing to match our goals at the right time is crucial to problem solving success. An important aspect of our problem solving is finding what will motivate our loved one to want to problem solve.

We must be willing to negotiate to achieve a win/win solution. When we have win/lose solutions; the relationship loses and that is outside of our goals.

Attitude is everything so before we begin it is important to remember to interpret things in the most benign way possible; to accept that there is no one or only absolute truth; believe that everyone is doing the best they can in this moment; and ask everyone to try harder.

One model for problem solving is:

1    Define the problem so that everyone agrees with the definition
2    Begin the problem solving discussion with something positive
3    Be specific/focused
4    Express your feelings
5    Identify your role in the problem
6    Deal with only one problem at a time
7    Summarize what the other person is saying (empathy)
8    Be mindful
9    Stay committed
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For this workshop we would like to explore:

 Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) What is the merit in having a problem solving strategy? What are the pros and cons of the model presented? What are other useful models?

 Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) What are the challenges with problem solving with a highly sensitive/emotional person and what approaches work - and what approaches don't work?

 Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) What are the common mistakes we, as family members, make when trying to problem solve with a highly sensitive/emotional person?

 Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) How are these things different for different family members types (parents vs partners vs children)?

I look forward to everyones responses! Remember this is a topic workshop, not a discussion of anyones specific family member or specific personal problem.
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« Reply #1 on: December 07, 2018, 06:20:53 PM »

I'll start and suggest that we do a quick review of the steps first, and then look at the nuances and tricks and traps.

1. Define the problem so that everyone agrees with the definition

The generally accepted starting point for solving a problem is to defining the problem to solve.

People often keep the problem in their head as a vague idea or feelings and can so often get lost in what they are trying to solve that no solution seems to fit. Defining the problem forces everyone to think about what you are actually trying to solve and what you want to achieve.

Defining the problem is also checking that you are answering the right problem. It is a check-step to ensure that you do not answer a side issue or only solve the part of the problem that is most easy to solve. People often use the most immediate solution to the first problem definition that they find without spending time checking the problem is the right one to answer.

Some basic guidelines:
         
Separate facts from feelings
Be collaborative - involve everyone in the defining process
State the problem specifically, narrowly
Identify what standard or expectation is the measure of success
Avoid trying to solve the problem without going through the process.
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« Reply #2 on: December 09, 2018, 10:08:11 AM »

2. Begin the problem solving discussion with something positive

To set a positive tone, it never hurts to compliment the fact that the issue is being pointed out. i.e. “I didn’t realize that. I’m glad that you pointed it out.” Now, a question can follow that addresses the concern with empathy, followed by validating the response and hopefully leading into productive conversation and negotiation.
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« Reply #3 on: December 09, 2018, 11:37:59 AM »

3. Be specific/focused

Often the problem and the hoped for solution are very broad and unrealistic.
"You are a liar and I need and I can trust you. You can't change who you are."

It is often helpful to narrow these down to the specifics that can be resolved.
"I didn't call from the hotel when I went to bed as I said I would. I have done this before."

The "feelings" in problems are often very broad. That's natural. Reining them in is very constructive. Decoupling from prior problems is very helpful - advice as old as man (see Corinthians 13:4-8).  

Paragraph header (click to insert in post)  
It takes some finesse.  If you encounter resistance, you could could do things like get agreement to work both paths, and do the narrow one first because it is easier.

Focusing reduces the feelings of injury by decoupling this problem from other problems in the past. It often brings a tactical solution within reach.

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Corinthians 13:4-8 (AD 54)
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« Reply #4 on: December 10, 2018, 09:28:30 AM »

4. Express your feelings

How we express our feelings is important especially when trying to problem solve.  Using 'I' statements is important as saying 'you' is often interpreted as an accusation.  Also, saying 'you' sets up barriers and will negate any efforts to find common ground.

It is also helpful to use less emotionally charged words to express our feelings.  The language we use plays a big part in setting the tone of any conversation and will also have a big impact on the outcome.  Less emotionally loaded terms help both us and our loved one to stay calm and focused.
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« Reply #5 on: December 18, 2018, 08:52:53 AM »

Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) What are the common mistakes we, as family member, make when trying to problem solve with a highly sensitive/emotional person?

Invalidation is a big one.
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« Reply #6 on: December 18, 2018, 10:45:07 AM »

5. Identify your role in the problem

my role in the relationship in general is to be an emotional leader and beacon of strength.

i cant do that if i dont listen to and try to understand my loved ones concerns, but dismiss or minimize them instead.

it isnt my role to unilaterally solve every problem (either constructively or destructively). it is my role to be a teammate in good faith with my loved one. i must be willing to negotiate, and not dictate. i must be open to the idea that my perspective may be wrong, inaccurate, or incomplete, that my approach may not fit, that my response may not be helping. i must be willing to accept that my partner is an autonomous human being who has their own perspective and approach and very real feelings on the matter (as do i), so in identifying my role in the problem, its important to ask and to listen without judgment to how my loved one views my role in the problem, how they think i can do better, what they need from me, and be willing to state those things myself, without blame.

in identifying my role in conflict, i ask myself some hard questions:

1. am i thinking like a victim? am i overwhelmed and on the defensive? do i feel helpless and unable to make decisions? am i not taking responsibility for my own feelings? if so, i may not be in the best space to problem solve.

2. am i blaming my loved one and insisting the problem is solely on them? am i being fair or punitive? am i feeling or acting self righteous? maybe im right, maybe im wrong, but im not focusing on solutions or resolving conflict.

3. am i enabling and overcompensating for my loved ones deficits or for my own? if so, im not helping either of us as much as i might think i am.
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« Reply #7 on: December 18, 2018, 12:10:08 PM »

Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) What are the challenges with problem solving with a highly sensitive/emotional person and what approaches work - and what approaches don't work?

Staying calm in the face of the other person's rage can help defuse or at least lessen the volatility. Having a goal in mind and calmly, steadily working toward it can be very helpful. But getting swept away in the drama and going into panic-mode yourself just keeps the situation in the red level -- though, when dealing with someone who is dysregulating, that is very very easy to do. Reason and rational thought can go right out the window.

Bullet: important point (click to insert in post) What are the common mistakes we, as family member, make when trying to problem solve with a highly sensitive/emotional person?

Trying to solve the problem in a highly emotional moment. Yes, you want to try to defuse the situation (if you can) but if it's a big problem -- or something ongoing -- it's not going to be solved in that moment. When one player is not engaging in rational thought, it's very difficult for anything constructing or lasting to come out of it.

Also, trying anything to appease the emotional person sets a bad precedent. Is it really possible to fully appease them if they're in a frame of mind to be upset? And would any appeasement really last?

Better, I think, to validate the person's feelings, step away if necessary and possible, and then come up with a more reasonable and lasting solution when things have calmed down.

The problem there is, sometimes the Non is reluctant to bring up these issues in happy, pleasant times for fear of triggering the emotional person.
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« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2018, 12:28:42 PM »

6. Deal with only one problem at a time

I know it may sound silly, but I never thought about this. By working on one problem at a time, parties are focused and more likely to reach a solution. Often, there are so many problems that need solving that it's overwhelming for everyone. When a problem solving event is successful, it's hard not to ride the wave of success and move onto the next problem. The risk of trying to solve more than one problem at a time is that the pwBPD can become overwhelmed and shut down communication, the non may get resentful, then, like Ozzie says:


sometimes the Non is reluctant to bring up these issues in happy, pleasant times for fear of triggering the emotional person.

It's important to leave other problems for another day. There is time and it's important to be mindful of the limitations of the pwBPD.

~ OH
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« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2018, 01:05:34 PM »

Excerpt
7  Summarize what the other person is saying (empathy)

This is one I find very high value in. Once you repeat back to a person what they are saying in a summary version, it can make them feel that they are being heard. This can go a long way. Sort of like how people say less is more. Instead of getting into the nuances of the problem and asking tons of questions, just responding back what you are hearing in an empathetic way "I understand that you are feeling hurt... .I can see why xyz  would make you feel this way" "So you are feeling unhappy because you never heard back from your mother today, you were looking forward to her call, it's your birthday after all" can be so powerful and validating. You are not even necessarily agreeing with the person but you are making them feel that you are listening to their feelings and you are acknowledging them without all the noise.

Many people take this for granted. You can be telling someone something "i'm struggling today, my dog died." and the other person may just say "oh, so are you getting a new pet?" This happens a lot when all that needed to be said was "You are feeling upset that your dog died. I understand how hard this must be for you." It can be overlooked but when you're really disclosing feelings like that and someone repeats them back to you with kindness, it can really help tighten up a bond or make a person feel safe and secure.
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« Reply #10 on: December 18, 2018, 01:05:49 PM »

8  Be mindful

Our individual interpretations of the mindfulness may vary, but it’s safe to say that mindfulness is associated with self-awareness; being open, present, and receptive to what is happening from one moment to the next. In problem solving, be mindful:

          Understand that your beliefs are sometimes driven by emotion. They are subconscious, automatic thoughts that can be illogical, invalid, or biased.

Accept that your perception is limited. Your understanding of the situation is only one side of the story. Try to interpret the situation differently, change its meaning, or view it from another person’s perspective.

Your objective is to solve the problem, rather than win the fight.
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« Reply #11 on: December 18, 2018, 01:06:04 PM »

9  Stay committed

Agree on a definition?  Stay focused?  Express our feelings?  Keep it to one problem at a time?  Hmm... .when we look at our sensitivities and bad habits along with our pwBPD's difficult behaviors, these things are tough!  This is very difficult work.  Just like learning anything else difficult, expect failure.  Give yourself credit for partial successes.  Dust yourself off after things go badly, figure out what are elements that went well and can be built on for the future, and figure out at least one key thing you can do differently next time.

Being mindful is an important strategy for staying committed.  If you are mindful, you will be able to continue to recenter yourself as a situation unfolds.  Mindfulness is a strength that builds slowly, like a muscle, so continue to practice it, noticing how you eventually are able to stay centered for longer in a tough situation.  This ability to recenter yourself and stay focused on your problem-solving role will build your confidence, bring results, and help you stay committed.
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« Reply #12 on: December 18, 2018, 02:16:44 PM »

Trust is a key part of a relationship and pwBPD have inherent trust issues. What would bother someone else can be catastrophic for them.  Here are the basics for maintaining trust. How many are issues in your relationship.

 Bullet: completed (click to insert in post)
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   Be consistent.
Be on time.
Do what you say you will do.
Don't lie -- not even little white lies to your partner or to others.
Be fair, even in an argument.
Be sensitive to the feelings of others. You can still disagree, but don't discount how your partner is feeling.
Call when you say you will.
Call to say you'll be home late.
Carry your fair share of the workload.
Don't overreact when things go wrong.
Never say things you can't take back.
Don't dig up old wounds.
Respect your partner's boundaries.
Don’t be jealous.
Be a good listener.

Be willing to work on your relationship and to truly look at what needs to be done to make your partner comfortable. Don't be ego driven or fearful of being a doormat. You can work and be conciliatory and not be a doormat.

Be supportive - make it clear that you care and respect your partner's feelings.

Be realistic. - it's normal that the problem is not resolved right away. Don't expect that. Do your best without needed to be rewarded back.

Use humor - in looking at yourself. Learn to let things go and enjoy one another more.

Don't be a doormat - it's a fine line between trying hard and trying too hard or being a doormat.  Learn that line.
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« Reply #13 on: December 19, 2018, 09:44:00 AM »

Don't define the problem as being the other person. I think many people get stuck on this point.  Blaming the other person is self-validating such as,  "she's Cluster B" or "he's a malignant narcissist." These things may or may not be true, but it doesn't  help solve the problem.  

Engaging in a 3x5 why analysis (asking "what causes the event,  recursively step-by-step, until arriving at root cause) may point to FOO (on both sides) or learned coping mechanisms that aren't helping in the present.  



I think asking the question "what can you do differently, because the current approach isn't working?" is key.  Given that,  I think it's valuable to work through any reluctance to try something different,  a reluctance which may be rooted in things like the need to be right,  or feelings of self- righteousness.  
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« Reply #14 on: January 01, 2019, 09:41:40 PM »

There are some really good points here and I think it's a good template for problem solving.  

I think that the only point that I strongly disagree with is the first one.  

1. Define the problem so that everyone agrees with the definition

Let me start with some background.  I have worked as a software developer for the last 15 years.  My job revolves around problem solving.  When we are creating something new, there can be a ton of challenge in this.  There is a lot of ambiguity since the solution doesn't exist yet and no one really knows what the problem is.  I have been on projects where we have spun our wheels trying to get everyone on the same page only to get to the end of the project and find out that we were off base.

I see every disagreement on the same lines.  We don't know what the problem really is or if we do, we can't express it without the knowledge of how or the desire of wanting to (definition of a habit).  I see the last one as the most typical of the major things in any dysfunctional relationship is fear.  Fear on both sides.  For example, there are times that I don't want to share my feelings with my wife because I fear that she'll either elephant stomp them or worse, use them as ammunition against me.  I'm guessing that her fear is similar but with the added concern that no one can be trusted.

So what's the best approach for software?  We have adopted a strategy that allows you to hit the mark fairly close each time.  We use a technique called Agile.  The idea is that we start out knowing there is a problem and that a solution needs to be created.  We talk about the problem for understand at more of a 10,000 foot view and identify the first things that we know we need and get to work on those things.  We get feedback on the things that were done and when everyone is satisfied we move on.  Once those things are done, we come back to the table and repeat until we land on the target.

I know that this is kind of overkill for a problem like who's going to do the dishes or let the dog out but can we really look at a big blow up about dishes and say to ourselves, "This is only about dishes."  So in this very situation we can imagine that the fight/problem is really only a symptom of the chronic problem.  

I think that focusing on the outcome is going to be more productive than a problem focus.

Invalidation is a big one.

I do agree with Once Removed, invalidation is a big problem but I would add that validation is the most elusive skill to nail down.  There is a ton of grey area in that subject alone.
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« Reply #15 on: January 08, 2019, 11:59:36 AM »

This problem solving model is a rational approach, almost scientific in its structure. I have never had success using logic and reason with my BPD partner. Cooperative Problem Solving is potentially territory for conflict. Yes we can discuss the problem, and we can become better listeners, but how we actually solve of the problem will need to be something that WE do. Don't expect our pwBPD to pull their weight, and when the problem has clearly been solved, don't expect our pwBPD to acknowledge this fact. Even proposing such a model could lead to problems.

The trust list above is more likely to succeed for the simple reason all of the points made are directed at us, not at our pwBPD.

Let's be realistic here. Some things can be done with our partner, but the heavy lifting will need to be done by us. I wouldn't even announce the solving of the problem; just let it happen unnoticed. We need to be like magicians. We gauge the audience. We may propose the trick, and perform the trick. Nobody need know how it was done. And don't expect anyone to clap when it has been done, or notice it has been done.
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« Reply #16 on: January 08, 2019, 12:36:19 PM »

Even proposing such a model could lead to problems.

Good point. The inability to solve problems or accept solutions is a common with people with BPD traits. Bad feelings often spark a need to find a problem. A problem solving model won't magically solve that.

I think the idea is to use this model to guide our actions and give us a game plan... .rather than reacting with counter emotions. I would not to ever propose a methodology to my partner, healthy or otherwise, or to be rigid in some academic execution. As you say "just let it happen unnoticed."

For me, having a tool to remind me to do things like try to move my partner to be specific rather than general and global in viewing a problem (Step 1) is helpful. If the situation is flooded with emotion, my first step would just be to listen and encourage coming back to the topic in a day or so.

Then I might try moving the target from something like "You are not trustworthy" to "You often come home later than you say you will and that effects my feeling of trust". Then validate that in a positive way (say something positive) - and finally say lets think about it, and come back to it later.

Slowly working my way through a process, rather than keep cycling through the same problems.

Does that seem at all constructive?  How would you do it differently? Better?
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« Reply #17 on: January 08, 2019, 01:58:35 PM »

Yes, that makes sense. My partner tends to over exaggerate and over generalise. Statements like "Everything is... .", "You always... ." or "You never... ." are big problems. Big problems are made up of smaller problems, with smaller problems within them which need to be solved.

This may be useful, although a little off the track... .If we look at nature, there are orders to things. From a trunk to a branch to a leaf; from a trickle to a stream to an estuary. And in sand dunes too, from a grain, to a ripple to a draa (and everything in between). The general rule with orders, or with perhaps anything, is the bigger something is, the slower it becomes. In the case of the dunes, a grain of sand may move 1 meter a second, but with a draa, it could take centuries to move that far, or indeed have no recorded movement. You can read more about this in Bill Mollison's, Permaculture- a Designer's Manual; Chapter 4 Pattern. Understanding Pattern in nature and mimicking its building blocks means we can create systems which would not be prone to decay and require huge energy inputs to sustain. Nature tends not to build with squares.

Thus, smaller problems should be easier and quicker to solve. Our pwBPD may only see the huge mass. If we can get them to move upstream a little, we could effect the problems which are happening downstream. Perhaps this is what you are saying anyway.

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