Problems vs. Difficulties

Family.Inc Newsletter - Problems vs. Difficulties

Newsletter No. 6 – February 16th, 2024
Written by a human. 

Do you have problems, or do you have difficulties?

Although they may seem one in the same; there are subtle differences. This distinction deserves consideration given the frequency with which my clients will talk about a family problem.

Problems have goals, tasks, or challenges that can be achieved.

A solution exists for any problem; “if I do X or Y, I will solve the problem”. Humans like resolution. We like to solve problems.

Within families and family dynamics, there is rarely a single, correct solution to the complex issues that exist between family members. When we anchor into the idea that something can be solved, we put effort and energy behind solutioning. And we set an expectation that a solution can be attained through focused attention and hard work. However, as I’ve written before, when expectations are not achievable, frustration most certainly ensues.

Difficulties, on the other hand, are constraints or barriers that need to be worked through.

For instance, what if you were to approach family issues not as problems to be solved, but as difficulties to overcome? Immediately, the context changes, as does the approach. The answer is no longer binary; it becomes collaborative and the expectations for the process and the work change immensely. And, because the expectations change, so too does the potential for frustration and aggravation, which means difficulties must be handled with care and intention. Making it more of an exercise in communication vs simply a problem to solve.

Nuance matters when deciphering the difference between a problem and a difficulty.

And this distinction significantly impacts how you engage with your family.

I would encourage you to shift to a difficulty mindset versus a problem mindset as you look at challenging family issues.

This small adjustment might just be the solution you need.

– Josh Gentine

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