A Problem Solving Approach to Making Decisions
 
Sylvia Lane

Choosing which job offer to take. Deciding to sell your home. Identifying the best candidate for the position. Giving critical feedback to a team member or client. Identifying which initiative to front burner and which to back burner. These and more are decisions that we face every day and often can leave us stressed or even stuck from inaction. It’s important to step back when we have opportunities to make important decisions or solve tricky problems and weigh multiple options objectively. Let’s explore a practical approach to problem solving and decision making that can help minimize the emotion we may be feeling and look at the possibilities to come to a sound decision.

First, know yourself and what you are setting out to accomplish.  If you get what you want, what will it look like?  How will you feel?  What will you get?  What are you willing to give up to make this happen?  How will you know when you have reached agreement that is satisfactory to you?  What evidence will you have of the agreement you’ve negotiated?

To answer these questions, take these steps so you can see your options more clearly and have more confidence in the direction you take:

  1. Clearly state what is the outcome you desire (without considering the how or any considerations yet).
  2. Identify alternative methods for achieving that outcome.
  3. List advantages and disadvantages or pros and cons of each method for achieving that outcome.
  4. Weigh the advantages or disadvantages in the list so that you can identify those that have the most value.
  5. Choose the method and outcome that most calls to you as you look at the options objectively.
  6. Schedule a time and place to start action towards your outcome.
  7. Assess your chosen outcome and method to determine any changes that need to be made.

battle-blurred-background-board-game-2283803Let’s explore an example where this approach helped a client, “Clara,” that was considering moving her psychotherapy practice from her current office that was close to a residential neighborhood to a new building being annexed to a local hospital.  Some pros she recognized included the potential for more clients from the contacts with the hospital staff.  This could result in another advantage with an increase in her income.  A disadvantage would be that she would have a longer commute to the office.  An advantage would be the opportunity to make new contacts for referrals, but the disadvantage would be losing the daily contact with the professionals in the current suite.  As she evaluated the advantages and disadvantages of each location and ranked what was most important to her, she decided to stay where she was.  She said that the relationships that she had with other people in the present location was more valuable to her than the possible increase in income.  After making this decision, we could then talk about options for “outreach” and ways to expand the practice without making a physical change of office space.  As Clara weighed the possibilities and options for the future of her practice, this helped her to create a new expansion plan without relocating.

This is a brief example of an empowering way to assess a problem and decision alternatives.  It can be more complex when more people are involved or if more possible solutions are considered, but a similar objective approach can be used.  This process of looking at the positives and negatives in each situation and weighing the methods and possible solutions can be helpful in many different situations.  It also encourages more forethought to minimize clean up that can occur from reactionary decision making.

What approach have you found effective when faced with decisions you need to make? I welcome your thoughts in this area.

Warmly,

Sylvia Lane

 

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