Shannon Titus/Bev Johnson
Chapter 3 is all about solving problems. Everybody is faced with problems almost every day of their life such as problems with school, problems at work, or even problems with your family. So, we are all alike in that we face challenges every day. The way in which we all differ is how we handle the problems. Facing up to our problems and dealing with them is hard, but if you rise to the challenge you come out of the situation a better, stronger, and more intelligent person. The people who come out on top after dealing with a problem usually are organized and have an informed approach to dealing with the problem. Those people who rarely come out with a solution to the problem most times do not have their thoughts and actions organized. They either jump right in without thinking through what would be the best course of action, or they avoid the problem altogether, which does not make the problem go away. Do not distress if you fall into the second category, for this chapter stresses that becoming an adept problem solver is a learned skill. By following the steps lined out in this chapter you can become an expert problem solver.
The first step in problem solving is acceptance of the problem. Before you can start to solve a problem you must first realize that the problem does exist and make a commitment to try to solve it. One example the chapter gives of people not admitting that a problem does exist is how the blacks were treated during the Reagan administration. Dr. Manning Marble of the University of Colorado states that, "The shattering assault against the economic, social, and political status of the black American community as a whole is symbolized by the Reagan Administration in the 1980's. The Civil Rights Commission was gutted; affirmative action became a dead letter…" If you are a person who has trouble in this first stage there are five simple strategies that might motivate you. The first strategy is making a list of all of the benefits that will come from successfully dealing with the problem. This list is also good for encouragement when you encounter difficult situations while dealing with the problem. Many problems can arise when you are dealing with problems. In the story Young Hate by David Shenk a young man stands up for his rights as a gay man and his dormitory is burned as a result. The second strategy is to formalize your acceptance. You can do this by signing some sort of document that will also serve to remind you of your original intentions should your resolve weaken during the process. The third strategy is very important in that it is you accepting responsibility for your life. When you take charge of your own life and start to accept responsibility for your own actions than you can become a critical thinker. Strategy four is to create a “worst-case” scenario. A lot of problems continue to exist because we ignore the consequences of our actions. Such as how a smoker tends to ignore the fact that their actions cannot only cause health problems, but can cause you to live a shorter life. If we write down the worst-case scenario involving our problem than we are unable to ignore the possible consequences. Finally, you have to identify what is holding you back. If you are having difficulties with facing a problem it is usually because something, or someone, is holding you back. These issues will continue to hold you back until you acknowledge them and deal with them one at a time. After you have accepted that the problem does exist the first step in solving the problem is defining what the problem is. This step can be broken down into three phases Phase one is to ask yourself, “What do I know about the situation.” In this step you sort what you know from what you think. You also list what your strengths are and also what outside resources you could use to help you solve your problem. Another important task in this phase is figuring out how the problem developed. If you know how a problem came into being than you can try to prevent it from happening again. Phase two is to put into words what results you are wanting in this situation. Phase three is to ask yourself, “How can I define the problem?” You can answer this question by viewing the problem from other perspectives than your own, identify the small subparts of the problem that make it rather large, and then state the problem clearly. Or, at least as clearly as you can for when solving a problem sometimes the actual problem does not become clear until you are actually in the process of solving it. The next step in problem solving is to identify and examine all of the alternative actions you can take to solve the problem. In order to do this you have to know what the boundaries of the situation are, such as things in the situation that cannot be changed. Sometimes it is hard to think of all of the possible actions that can be taken. To help you in this matter you can discuss the problem with other people, brainstorm ideas, and sometimes something as simple as leaving the location of the problem to think can help you approach the problem in a different way. The next step is to identify what the advantages and disadvantages of each alternative are. In this step you should gather any information you need to correctly evaluate each alternative. Step four in the problem solving process involves deciding on a solution. Even though you may not be certain about what the solution should be by going through all of the previous steps you should have a clear idea about the problem, and also know what immediate steps should be taken. Sometimes this can involve combining two or more alternatives that you had previously come up with. The final step in the problem solving process is evaluating how well the solution that you chose is working. To be a good critical thinker you have to be open to the possibility that you may have to modify your solution a little, or change it entirely if it does not seem to be working. A couple of ways to be able to tell if your solution is working is to look back at your goals and compare them with the actual results and to ask other people’s opinions about the situation. Be careful when you ask for other people’s opinions, though, because if you don’t ask specific questions you will probably get vague, unhelpful, answers.