These Three Things Revolutionized My Problem Solving Skills

This was written for my newsletter “The Positive Note” yesterday (with some rewording) and I think it can be helpful for people who struggle with problems. This is how I dealt with a recent problem and because it worked so well, I will continue using it.

Image for post
Image for post
“A focused man working on a sticker-covered laptop in a coffee shop” by on

Last month, I asked my employer for a raise with all the work I’ve been doing for him and he agreed to it.

I was thinking everything went well, until he suddenly asked me what was with my most recent bill I sent him. He was wondering why I was charging the price that I did and apparently he didn’t agree with it, despite agreeing with it just last month.

The problem got larger when he explained he was underpaying me as well for what we initially agreed on. That happened because I made a mistake to not include the price of each article in my invoices until my most recent bill.

I relied on what we discussed prior to being enough and didn’t think it was necessary until now for some reason.

Under most circumstances, most would be reasonably upset. They would ultimately paint my employer to be at fault for everything. And though I clearly made a mistake it’s not as serious as underpaying what two parties agreed to.

And though I felt tempted to do that — after all I’ve been working with my employer for a few months now — I didn’t.

Instead, what I did was something different and that revolutionized my problem-solving skills.

First, I Paused

No doubt I was frustrated.

After working with my employer for a few months it came to light that he clearly didn’t pay me what we originally agreed upon.

Furthermore, he has mistaken my ask for a raise despite me clearly stating it and him agreeing to it. Not to mention he failed to let me know that my raise would create a loss on his end until this day.

But instead of letting that frustration get to me I paused and looked at the situation. Instead of letting my emotions get the best of me, I looked at the situation and asked some questions.

Would arguing about this benefit me?

The truth is, arguing about this probably wouldn’t get me far. Sure I could fight, but the end result of an argument is either someone stepping back or one crushing the other’s ego. They’ll give in, but they’ll do so reluctantly.

This reluctant nature would only serve to create a rift between my employer and myself. I learned that through Dale Carnegie’s book How To Win Friends and Influence People.

As a result, arguing wouldn’t really benefit me in this situation.

Who is to blame for this?

By all means, my employer is at fault here. As I mentioned above he misinterpreted what was clearly stated (for whatever reason), and also failed to clarify when he was confused at what I was getting at until this change happened.

But at the same time, I am at fault here as well. Even though what we discussed should’ve been clear enough, I took in good faith that my employer would pay me the proper amount.

It’s not that he destroyed my trust and that there is none left. But I should’ve taken measures to clarify everything. Things like properly including numbers in bills and not relying on “good faith” that my employer will pay the right amount.

Lastly, I asked…

How should I go about this?

With these facts in mind, how should I proceed with this?

By no means is it a simple task. Hurling insults or shifting blame is not going to get anywhere. At the same time you want to word things properly and propose something that is reasonable as a solution.

After all, dwelling on a problem is not the right way on solving a problem.

Second, I Analyzed

After I looked at my answers, I breathed and thought things over again and again. Arguing further about this wouldn’t do much. Trying to prove which side is more right than the other would only serve to create a rift, even if the answer is clear.

Trying to prove who is right and wrong would only lead to losses on both sides. My employer would lose a writer, and I an employer and a good chunk of my income.

Clearly I have more to lose since my employer can always find more who are willing to work with him. For sure I can do the same, however I may not be so fortunate to have an employer such as this.

This leads me to think I’m more at a loss here and should be the one to fix the problem. This resulted in me backing off.

But just because I backed off doesn’t mean I should be passive about it or brush it off.

What my employer did originally was what caused the problem in the first place. He clearly went against what we originally proposed. Even though it was my mistake for not catching it, you’d think he would remember the amount after a few weeks and there being digital evidence of our discussion.

Furthermore the fact he didn’t clarify at all and has left me in the dark for the most part also needs to be brought up.

By expanding on these questions and deepening my understanding of the situation, I was able to pull back from the problem and look it over — completely unbiased.

I looked at my actions and knew now I should be clearer, make sure that I’m understood, and to start writing down amounts on the bills I send to people. Not because I don’t trust them, but to prevent situations where my employer is confused.

I’ll admit, my employer certainly has difficulties communicating with me it seems. There have been a few other minor cases where he’s left me in the dark like that and I’ve had to pry information from him. Because of that, it’s prompted me to be more direct with people which I’m thankful for. But it’s from this event that has brought me to how I solved the issue.

Last, I Presented

When you remove yourself from the problem and look at it for what it is, the situation isn’t honestly you vs someone else, it’s you and them vs the problem.

It’s for this reason, even as my employer made several blunders that make him look bad, I still respect my employer and I’m willing to go through with this.

Think about it.

Going back to Dale Carnegie’s book, he’s stated that crushing one’s ego can be satisfying. You’ll feel empowered.

But what of the other person whom you had to crush?

Carnegie isn’t talking about taking a passive stance or letting things slide.

He’s talking about respecting a person, but also bringing things up to light.

This doesn’t mean avoid arguing, or take a passive stance in an argument. That doesn’t help you grow and only gives more leverage for you to be used by the other.

Instead, I’d suggest taking a stance of presenting everything and proposing a solution that is suitable for everyone. One that keeps both peoples pride intact, even if it means you have to back down a little from your previous stance.

By no means are you forgetting about what they did, however, you would trust that the person recognizes the issues and fixes their issues. By bringing that to the surface, you leave it to them how they wish to proceed with the relationship.

If they care about the relationship they will make changes in due time. In life, we have a tendency to run into the same problem if we have yet to learn our lesson. So if communication continues to be a problem or something else, it will be brought up again and again.

That is, until you solve it. Together.

We All Have Problems

We all have problems in our lives and as much as some problems are harder to bare, in the end, I feel that it’s a team against a problem rather than you vs them. When we can settle for compromises, a relationship can truly flourish and I believe that was what Carnegie was getting at as well.

By understanding and following what I did, I think people can solve their problems in a constructive manner.

Through pausing and realizing the situation, I realized that I should still be seeking other employers and apply what I’m learning.

Furthermore, I hope that my employer has learned to put more faith in me and start to open up a little more for me.

My hope is that he sets aside his pride that he understands everything I’m talking about and speaks up when he’s confused.

This is how you solve a problem and benefit from it.

To your growth!

Eric S Burdon

Entrepreneur, positive-minded. I used to say a lot, now I do a lot. Documenting my growth. Support me on Patreon:

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store