Thursday 15 December 2016

Is your language stopping you from finding the solution?

Yesterday I suggested that the solution to a problem might be found in the very words we're using. That is, the solution to going around in circles may be to metaphorically explore the circles, or that trees would provide the solution when you metaphorically can't see the wood for the trees, or that procurement not having a seat at the table in organisations would be resolved by exploring how to get a seat at other types of table.

In this post I'm suggesting that the words we use can also stop us from finding a solution. As Caroline Myss says "words have power". They have power because words create internal representations in our mind. If the image that comes to mind when you use a word is this
rather than this
There's no surprise that you think and feel differently about the situation, and the likelihood of finding solutions might be very different too.

We're all different, and so a few of you may be more inspired by the brick wall, however the majority reading this will think of solutions more easily when imagining the 2nd picture or a similar image that conveys for them movement and ease.

I'm not just talking about words like can't, impossible and never which certainly tell the mind that a solution is out of reach but other words.

In the past I've written about using 'no pain, no gain' as a particularly unhelpful saying. Today I'd like to explore the use of 'problem.'

I'm sure we've all caught ourselves saying we've got a 'problem' and then correcting ourselves to say 'challenge' or even that the 'solution is currently eluding us'. We instinctively understand that labelling something as a problem means we're saying to other people, and our own mind, that it's all the things listed below.
We're telling ourselves at the onset, as soon as we use the word problem to describe a situation, that it's complicated, difficult, muddled and messy! Any wonder then that solutions are hard to find?

I saw the following job advert on LinkedIn a few weeks ago, and initially responded to say I loved the job title.
How fantastic does being a Head of Problem Management sound.

Until I considered what it actually meant, and could potentially mean within the organisation.

Does a problem manager just manage the problems - make lists of them, define them, sort them into piles and see success as well managed problems? Do those in the organisation go to the problem manager to gossip and moan about the problems. Perhaps there's a notice board where problems can be viewed for all to admire - ranking problems out of 10, and being particularly pleased when they've identified a 10/10!

It may sound silly, trivial or down right rude to you - and it might be. The proof is in whether problems in the organisation are lower or are now resolved quicker as a result of having a Head of Problem Management or not.

I'd love to explore whether a Head of Solution Management might reduce problems encountered in the organisation - you never know perhaps the Head of Problem Management hands their problems over to the Head of Solution Management for them to be resolved?      

What do you think? Would it make a difference to you? Do you notice the impact words have on you, and make a conscious decision to use words that support the outcome you want?

If you're getting the results you want there's no need to pay attention to the words you're using. If success is eluding you, or there's an increasing sense of stuckness then why not explore the language you're using to describe the situation. You never know, your language may just be what's keeping the solution at arms length.

Alison Smith
The Purchasing Coach
Inspiring change inside and out 

Available to help you and your team explore how the language and metaphors you're using might be helping or hindering you in finding solutions, and stopping you achieving your 2016 2017 goals. Support available with other soft skills development too.

To find out more do get in touch either via or +44(0)7770 538159

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