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What’s your problem?

May 17, 2013

The different way people approach things is fascinating.  I am a problem solver. Not as in mathematical puzzles so much as in I need to find answers for problems. It is what I do. It is how I function in my entire life. Everything becomes a problem to solve. ‘Problem’ in this context is not negative. It is more of a question and answer approach. I have to be able to define the problem and then solve it.

It may be my medical training. I’m not sure if I was like it any way or if that hammered it in to me. Find out what the problem is then sort it out. Nobody comes to see a doctor unless there’s a problem, so it was all day every day. I didn’t have to invent problems to solve, they just rocked up. In Casualty (OK, A and E nowadays), in clinic, in wards, in operating theatres, in the anaesthetic room, the recovery room, intensive care…. everywhere. And one of the great joys is that it’s a new problem every time. They may be very similar to ones before, but everyone is an individual and there may be special nuances to watch out for, particular hurdles to overcome.

It is how I approach everything, not just doctoring,  which is why I find it difficult doing tea and sympathy in my non-professional life. My automatic response to a friend or relative feeling under the weather/in pain/moaning  is to try to determine the cause and suggest solutions such as  ibuprofen and/or paracetamol, or go and see a film, or organise a night out. Depending whether the problem is medical or emotional.

And it is sometimes met with a curt and exasperated response that I am completely unsympathetic, unfeeling and uncaring. Which I feel is unjust of course! As I do care and my care is manifest in trying to solve the problem. But that’s not what they want,  they just want sympathy.  It took years for it to occur to me that someone might NOT want their problem solved. Or at least not at that moment, or not by be.  Because if I have a problem I do everything I can to sort it out, and I want it sorted NOW. And if anyone has a decent suggestion I’ll take it if it still isn’t sorted by my own devices.

In contrast,  some people just want acknowledgement. Not a solution.  “Ooh, yes that’s nasty” or “Oh dear you poor thing” , without the additional “Have you taken anything for it?” or, “That sounds muscular – have you tried this stretch? ” or “Well I know a good lawyer.”

I can’t get my head round it. It is a complete enathema to me.  Surely no one wants problems so if something is a problem you want to get rid of it? Or is it that it isn’t really a problem, you are just upgrading a minor irritation in to something bigger so you can have a whinge? But I know that isn’t true as sometimes the issue they want acknowledging and comfort for really is massive, and doesn’t have an easy answer. I try to keep it zipped but so often rather than sympathy I hear myself offering possible solutions to a small part of the problem and I know I haven’t helped at all. If anything, made them feel worse – as if they haven’t tried to solve it or as if it is their fault the problem is with them in the first place. Which of course would be the last thing I’d want to do, but I do struggle to keep my gob shut.
At work there are people who moan about their job. A specific task. A particular person. A given project. Or just everything in general. They exude a feeling of powerlessness, that this is simply the way of the world and a cross they must bear. Hello!!! Wake up and do something about it if it is that bad. Don’t just suck the energy out of everyone else with your negativity. Work out what the actual problem is and then try to solve it. For many it will be crystal clear the problem is in their power to solve. By not spending half the fucking day moaning about the amount of work they have to get through and actually focussing some time on the task in hand and getting stuff done. Taking decisions and acting on them rather than putting them off or revisiting them time and again after a decision has been taken. But that isn’t what they want to hear. They just want a sympathetic ear and a little mental stroke. I nearly have a stroke myself when they start up…
So if I am ever in your company and I  tell you I’ve got a problem don’t just say “Yes, dear” –  I want you to help me get it fucking sorted.

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2 Responses to “What’s your problem?”

  1. Natalie Says:

    There is something therapeutic about a good old moan! Like this rant for instance. You just want to have a bitch and it feels good haha


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