A Common Pitfall

If you ever counsel or manage people, this posting will be valuable for you.
Many problems begin when we take on other people’s problems as our own.  This is a chronic issue in relationships of all descriptions.  Marital, business, government.  At the heart of this assumption of problems is the desire to help – the purpose we all hold in common – so it’s an instinct born of a very social, if sometimes misguided, impulse.

People going down their own roads can create, from the sum of their own cowardices, a unique set of problems.  One can get quite tangled in these when he moves to help.

Have you ever solved a person’s problem and noticed that he then hands you another?  And then another, and another.

“Please give your grandmother a kiss or she will be upset.”  Grandmother apparently has an issue with not getting respect  or with being rejected or some other problem she has created but not solved.  The bottom line here is that she refuses responsibility for her own problem and lays it at your feet.  If you do not take action, she will be upset and she will blame YOU!  If you are not willing to experience grandmother’s upset, you take on grandmother’s inability!

She is a spider drawing you in to her web, and you help her to trap you by your inclination to be helpful. There is no evil intention on her part, particularly. She is simply a victim of her own creation, and looks to you as a solution for this.  When you volunteer for the position you are suddenly saddled with a more permanent position than you might have expected.

Who has not seen the manager who is compulsively trying to solve the problems of his employees, or the over-attentive parent who tries to solve every problem his child encounters?

It’s almost an axiom that 5% of the population are trying to solve the problems created by the other 95. This percentage came about because of this social instinct to take on other people’s problems, rather than training them to solve them themselves!

This is not to say that we should not help people. It is the essence of civilization to allow and even succor the impulse to help.  But we need to help people solve their own problems without adopting those problems as our own!   This 5% should turn their attention to TRAINING the other 95 so they can resolve their own issues.

My friend Ron Hubbard once observed that there are only two reasons why any productive area goes down.  One is not choosing your people correctly in the first place, and the other is not training people on their jobs.   Get the hiring right and train people correctly to solve their own problems and the rest is progress.

Violation of these fundamentals account for the overwork of the 5%, and the onset of the welfare state.

A classic example of this would be the American government.  This is a collection of politicians who consider their job is to get elected.  They are, generally speaking,  utterly untrained and unqualified to solve the issues that they are elected to resolve. They are salespeople, not administrators.    Why are we then surprised to discover the country in a shambles? The entire show has the look of a carnival during an earthquake.

Bad hiring. No training.

There is a particular tribe in Africa that had been dwindling for many years, and when an investigator had a look at what was going on she revealed an old custom at its core:  it was considered unmannerly for a son to do better than his father.  This aberration had started some years earlier with the dictate of an arrogant tribal leader.  Rather than confront the pain of embarrassment, these people by agreement with this suppressive policy harnessed their young generations to this artificial monitor of appropriate behavior, and the youth – being trained to obey their elders at all costs – acquiesced and followed the group to extinction. They accepted their elder’s problem as their own.

It is particularly destructive when we find that a sociopath has risen to a level of power.  His staff, not recognizing his criminal nature, find their desire to help gradually harnessed to an ill wind.  I have an acquaintance who worked for one such suppressive manager for twenty years, and over this time he became, himself, quite like his former boss;  intolerant, secretly frightened, dictatorial and aloof.  It all began when he took on this boss’s problems as his own.  There was a time when he received an order that he thought was unacceptable, but out of a fear of the pain of his boss’s reprisal, he acquiesced and complied.  That began his slide to personal oblivion.

The legendary mother-in-law who dominates her children’s household only has free reign because these children “Do not want to upset mom.”  They don’t notice that mom’s upset is inevitable and continuing because they make themselves her “solution.”  It is an incorrect path that allows the problem to spread.  The children learn “not to get in trouble, ” which means avoid the pain of life at all costs.

Learning is always preceded by pain.  The pain of being rejected or the pain of embarrassment or the pain of seeing the look on Grandma’s face when you refuse the kiss.   The unwillingness to experience pain is the beginning of incompetence and stupidity. People who work to avoid pain want you to experience it on their behalf.  You do them no favor by doing so.

People who are willing to throw themselves against life and damn the pain that might ensue are those who carry the civilization on their shoulders.

But this fundamental is an important guidepost: the moment you take on someone else’s problem as your own, you lose your grip and set yourself upon a downward slide.

Fortunately, most people can be easily brought back on track by getting them to isolate the real problem and taught how to solve it themselves.

This is a change of operating basis that opens the door to a new civilization: don’t fix their problems, teach them how to fix them.  Training is the key to our future.

Here is an important clue that stood me well when I operated as a consultant:   if you set out to solve a problem and the problem doesn’t solve, you’re solving the wrong problem!  A lot of the technology of problem solving has to do with correct identification of the actual problem.

An excellent example of this was a company that wanted to hire me to solve their training program.  I had a look at the program and it was pretty good.  In fact, there were many issues in this company of a more serious impact. So I went to the steering committee and asked them why they thought their training program was wrong. They replied that they “could not get anyone successfully through it!”  I asked “WHO is ‘anyone?'”  They gave me seven names, and we tested these people and discovered that they were morons.  I mean, the highest IQ in the bunch was 85!

Corporate training programs are not designed to handle morons, though I have seen some that enhanced stupidity.  The committee’s actual problem was their hiring line, and this had been going on for so long because of the management’s inability to spot the correct source of problems.

We discovered that their Human Resources exec was, herself, an idiot and utterly lacked the training required to accomplish the optimum result of a recruiter.  We replaced her and trained the new team which handled their REAL problem – the recruiting procedures – with considerably less expense than the cost of fixing a training program that did not need fixing.  In the process of doing this we trained the steering committee in how to correctly identify the source of problems, and everyone lived happily ever after!

Don’t take on other people’s problems.  You have enough of your own, and their’s won’t solve anyway until they learn how to solve them.

Help them with that!



Categories: General | 12 Comments

Post navigation

12 thoughts on “A Common Pitfall

  1. Reblogged this on brightfametexan and commented:
    Sage words from a sage man

    • I’m glad you enjoyed it, Tex! I blush with your compliment, As a matter of fact I’m planning a book with about twenty of my stories and naming it “Cuds from a Half-Chewed Life.” Hardly sage, but certainly a lot of fun!

      Thanks for re-blogging this article. It makes me very happy that you would think enough of my essay to share it with your own readers.

  2. Rob Thomas

    Love you Shreff. Great words of wisdom!

  3. George

    love your stories, keep em coming!!

  4. No worries, George! Thanks fore stopping by!

  5. Kirk

    This is very poignant topic, given the “problems” we face in these times as a nation, society, and individuals. There are a lot of “wrong whys” floating around out there and the solutions are crazier!!! And it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see them.

    I can see where managers and family members alike jump in to “solve” the problems so that they are “doing their jobs”. Quite the slippery slope!

    Thx for keeping us on track Shref!

    • Hi Kirk!

      Good to hear from you. I agree, this topic is one that needs a lot more attention from everybody. Added to these are the problems created when these government folks take from the people who ARE handling their own problems and enforce government ‘solutions’ on them.

      My opinion is that this whole thing is caused by a few people who want to centralize control. It’s the oldest game in the book: who can control the entire game board? The video on this site called “THRIVE: What on Earth will it Take?” offers some of the best solutions I have seen for empowering people and taking back our birthrights. If you haven’t seen it, that is your homework assignment for tonight!

      The topic I posted here and for which you commented is at the root of these problems, and it will be a new dawn when effective education of the correct fundamentals are given more attention than the Military-Industrial complex.

      Thanks for stopping by, Kirk.


  6. I have unfortunately fallen into this trap a countless times. I recall some reference where a person will actually get mad at you for “solving” their problems. It’s time I learned this lesson for good! Thanks for a terrific article!

  7. Thank you Mark for this article, I really need that! Eleanor

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at WordPress.com.

%d bloggers like this: