Solution Saturday: Stop Giving So Many Solutions

Do you love offering solutions to other people’s problems? What if it’s ineffective, even dangerous?

Don’t solve problems FOR people:

Solving problems for people invites dependency. The more times you solve someone’s problem, the more quickly they will come to you next in the future.

Anyone who says, “Just tell me what to do,” will blame you if it doesn’t work. “I just did what you told me!”

Offering solutions to someone’s problem may invite judgement. How many times have you offered a brilliant solution only to hear an off handed, “That won’t work.”?

If you aren’t careful, you end up in a conversation designed to defend yourself and prove someone wrong.

Hard listening:

Solution-giving is easy until you do the hard listening.

It helps to understand problems before offering solutions.

Quick answers from you make others feel you don’t get it.

When was the last time you listened to understand?

10 questions to ask before solving someone’s problems:

  1. What are you trying to accomplish?
  2. What’s important to you about that?
  3. If you succeed what will be true for you? Others?
  4. What are your concerns?
  5. What have you tried?
  6. What happened to cause this problem?
  7. How long has this problem been nagging you?
  8. How much of this problem concerns trying to control others?
  9. How much of this situation is within your control? In other’s control?
  10. How have you addressed similar problems in the past?

What if questions invite engagement and statements invite judgement?


3 questions to ask about the person:

Help people address problems from a position of strength.

Don’t project your strengths on others.

  1. When are you at your best?
  2. What are your strengths?
  3. What energizes you?

When to solve someone’s problem:

  1. The need for quick results outweighs the need for development.
  2. Time is short and you know the answer.
  3. You have expertise they can’t attain in a timely manner.
  4. Recipients are eager learners, rather than shirkers.


Generate three possible solutions WITH them and invite THEM to choose the one to execute.

What suggestions do you have about solving people’s problems?

When do you want someone else to solve your problems?

(Yes, I think it’s ironic to write about offering solutions about not offering solutions.)

*I suspend my 300 word limit on Solution Saturday.