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Problem Solving Skills

Dear Ann Landers: After reading the letter from "Sports Widow in Kentucky," I had to write. Her letter is my life exactly. I discovered on my wedding night that sports were a higher priority for my husband than I was.

For the first four years of married life, I pouted, begged and pleaded for a normal relationship. For the next five years, I learned the name and location of every football team, memorized the players' names, positions and statistics. I then buried myself in my children's lives. That lasted 18 years. Then the children left home.

One day, while my husband was mesmerized by a sporting event on TV, I handed him a bottle of lotion, took off my shoes and socks, and placed my feet on his lap. Hardly aware of what he was doing, he began to give me the most marvelous foot massage. I was in heaven. After that, we agreed I would get a foot massage for every sporting event he watched on TV.

Today, I wait, hope and pray there will be some game he wants to watch. For the first time in our marriage, I feel connected to him during sporting events and pampered to boot. We will celebrate our 33rd wedding anniversary this summer, and I hope there is a preseason football game on TV for us to enjoy together.

--Team Spirit in Nebraska

Dear Nebraska: I'd say you found the perfect solution-- and I suspect a good many "sports widows" will be eager to try your approach. Thanks for writing.

--Ann Landers

The basic problem-solving process is:

(1) Tell the story of the difficult situation, to someone who responds with empathy but not advice. Advice won't help you.

(2) Answer their questions to clarify your experiences, behaviors, feelings and dilemmas.

(3) Describe what you want your situation to be. Tell them how things would be if they were going well.

(4) Describe what you've done in the past, and what you're doing now. What solutions have you tried?

(5) Tell them which are the most important of the difficulties you have. Identify the underlying interest that needs to be met.

(6) Tell them what changes are needed to get from here to there. Tell them what you're willing to do to get from here to there.

(7) Do some brainstorming, coming up with lots of possible courses of action. Don't censor. Be free-flowing.

(8) Evaluate these possible courses of action.

(9) Choose the best one and act on it. Give it some time (say, three weeks), and if it doesn't work, choose another and try that.

Here's a version of Problem Solving Skills you can download:

Download 12-Problem_Solving_Skills.txt