How do you solve a problem with compassion?

Problem-solving with compassion

You want to find a solution to your problem, but you don’t want to ignore your team’s opinions and feelings. It doesn’t mean taking responsibility for other people’s problems and solving them or pitying them. Compassion involves noticing others’ suffering, connecting to them cognitively and emotionally, and responding to them with support.

Investigate the problem

Take the time to get clear what and why do you want to fix a problem or make a change? Who is impacted by the change and what can be a possible solution?

Understand the problem

Find out how you and other people are feeling about this problem.

You might ask:

“You’ve said that you’re {{ name the problem }}. From your tone of voice, it sounds like you’re feeling really  {{ name a feeling }} – am I off?”

Alternatively, you can simply ask:

“How are you feeling about this?”

Connect feelings and thoughts

It’s important that you show people you have some understanding of their situation and that you feel for them, without being rude. It’s better not to say “I know exactly how you feel,” even if you have been in the same situation. No two people feel exactly the same way in the same situation. Instead, consider paraphrasing what the person has said to you. 

You might ask something like:

“It sounds like you’re feeling angry because the site managers haven’t made anyone available to help you address the problems they are still complaining about. Am I getting that right?”

Be curious

Just knowing what they are feeling about the problem doesn’t mean that you know what made them really feel that way. Often, an emotional response to a problem can be connected to a way deeper issue. Try being curious, to find a deeper relation to the problem if they haven’t already told you. 

Say something like:

“I’m curious what’s happened that leads you to feel this way?” 

Don’t forget, the purpose of being curious is to connect better to their feelings and not to solve the problem.

Focus on the pain before the problem

What’s important is, if people start to open up – not to shut them directly down. Listen to them, explore what they really say and mean.

To resolve problems with compassion, you need to connect with people cognitively and emotionally without unilaterally trying to solve the problem that created it. Many people find it easier to focus on solving the problem than exploring people’s struggles because this can feel uncomfortable.

Create the next steps

Now that you have connected to the pain related to the problem of others, you may change your opinion about the problem or even your possible solution.

Use your possible solution, not as the defined answer on the problem, but use it as a starting point and guideline for the conversation.

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