30 Guidelines for Solving Problems

It is normal and human to have problems. If our hands get dirty, we know how to wash them. Similarly, when we have problems we need to know how to clean them up. Relationships with loved ones, friends, children, bosses, etc. suffer when problems are not resolved in constructive ways.

As a Marriage, Family Therapist, I counseled many clients of all ages. I was able to successful help them overcome their issues. The following 30 guidelines can assist you to resolve problems that you, the other person, or both of you are having. Then you can enjoy healthy, happy relationships.

A) When I Have a Problem


1) Tell me that you are there for me. That helps me know that you care.

2) Ask me if I would like to discuss my problem. Then you’ll know whether I’m ready to resolve it.

3) Listen to what I’m saying and tell me in your own words what you heard. Then I’ll know that you are hearing me.

4) Accept my feelings even if you do not understand them. That helps me feel my emotions are valid even if they are irrational.

5) Share with me if you also felt that way. Then I’ll know that you can relate to me.

6) Explain what you would do in my situation. Then I’ll see some possible solutions.

7) Ask me what my choices are. That helps me think of some other alternatives.

8) Help me brainstorm all possible resolutions. Then I’ll have many creative ideas.

9) Suggest that I write down the pros and cons of my decisions. That helps me clarify my thoughts.

10) Encourage me to write down the details of my solutions. That helps me put them into action.

Thank you for being patient, accepting, and supportive.

I love you! (Or care about you!)

B) When You Have a Problem


1) Know that it is solvable.

2) See it as an opportunity to learn something.

3) Explore your problem alone by completing the sentences: My problem is ____. Or, I feel ____.

4) Realize that asking me for support is a gift to me. You are demonstrating that you are human and that you too have problems.

5) Ask me when we can meet to discuss your issue.

6) Tell me about how much time we will need.

7) Be clear whether you want me to just listen or help you solve the problem.

8) Share with me specifically how I can help you.

9) Be patient with yourself and me.

10) Compliment yourself for having the courage to reach out to me.

Thank you for trusting me.

I love you! (Or care about you!)

C) When We Have a Problem

Please let’s…

1) Know that we can resolve it.

2) Realize it is an opportunity for both of us to learn something and be closer.

3) Separately express all our emotions in constructive ways. For example, release our anger into a soft pillow and explore any hurt, fear, or powerless feelings.

4) Decide on a specific time when we can meet to resolve the issue.

5) State the agreed on problem in the form of a question. For example, “How can we spend more time together?”

6) Brainstorm by writing down all possible solutions without either one commenting.

7) Narrow down the suggestions by taking turns crossing off any we prefer to eliminate, without giving any reasons.

8) Both state the mutually accepted solution(s).

9) Work out the details together.

10) Plan on a follow-up date to meet again to see if the problem has been resolved.

Thank you for helping to create win-win solutions.

I love you! (Or care about you!)