Are you a problem solver or a solution-oriented person?

When you encounter a problem or a difficult situation, what do you usually do? Which questions do you ask? The questions you ask yourself the moment you face a problem is what makes you a “Problem Solver” or a “Solution-Oriented Person”.

When you read through job offers, you realize that most of the companies are searching for Problem Solvers, people who can tackle problems and find solutions in the most efficient way. People who can do that, problem after problem, over and over again.

We need problem solvers as we all want to move away from the challenges we are encountering and we all want to reach our goals and to find solutions. But, how are we reaching the solution? Do we always have to deeply analyze the problem to be able to find the right solution? How much do we need to focus on the issue before starting to search for the solution? And how frustrated or angry do we grow before finding it? Let’s look into this.

Different kinds of problems

First of all, there are different kinds of problems, which require different kinds of handlings.

There are circumstances where a deep analysis of the problem is necessary to be able to solve them and to avoid them to happen again, such in engineering. There are also situations where the focus on the problem is needed to allocate responsibilities and bring justice to the matters, like in the case of criminal situations.

In these cases we need to put our attention on the issue and find the most effective way to go through the problem-solving process which includes describing and analyzing the matter, looking for the root cause, evaluating, selecting, and implementing alternative solutions.

Problem focus has its place in many areas, but it is less helpful and efficient when the problems involve interactions between people. These kinds of issues are arising more and more in organizations and working environments: troubles that are about people interaction like communication difficulties, decision making, or dealing with change. In these cases, what’s the best way to approach them?

Problem talk vs Solution talk in people-related issues

When it comes to challenges, we are all different. Some people love talking about problems, issues, and difficulties: they look for more understanding of why they happen, they sometimes even look for someone to blame and end up just complaining about them. Other people simply look for solutions and ways to move forward, avoiding talking too much about the problem itself.

The fact is clear: the more we talk about a challenge, the bigger and more complex it becomes. Unfortunately focusing on the issue and knowing why things are the way they are and having detailed explanations makes us “problem experts” but doesn’t always help us to decide what to do next. It brings frustrations and a sense of powerlessness, making us feeling stuck into the depths of the problematic situation.

On the other side, focusing on the solution directs our attention towards a vision for the future, focus the mind on the becoming, and towards the moment where the issue is not there anymore. It gives a sense of purpose and a feeling of owning the situation, being able and capable of changing it. It makes people feel empowered, hopeful, and happier.


  • How did I approach my latest challenge at work? 
  • Which solution-oriented questions could I have asked myself?
  • Which colleague could help me to be more solutions-focused next time I experience a team conflict?

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