Problem Solving: Scrabble, Relationships, and Cars

Yes, I realize the terms within this post are a little weird. I blame that on my applied psychology textbook. Yes, I know that its odd I am talking about a guy jumping out of a burning skyscraper. Really, it wasn’t my idea. This post is responding to a specific prompt; it is a discussion essay I wrote for my current class, focusing on business psychology. I was really bored writing it, so I tried to liven it up a little bit with some scenarios which made it somewhat more entertaining for me. Besides, my professor asked for some real-world examples : )

Problem solving is a basic skill that ideally would be carried out by everyone, yet making healthy decisions is not always the order of the day. Many only rely on intuition to solve problems, which can actually be a great thing, if the experiences we have had in the past have built up our intuition to make healthy decisions. If a man jumped out of a skyscraper which was on fire, later contributing his survival to what he learned in business school, what he would be referring to would be the set of decision making skills he obtained in school.  The way he responded in the crisis was by learning to view the need to make quick decisions as a catalyst, rather than resorting to emotions as the guiding factor. Responding to crisis, not considering the fire as a stressful situation, yet instead as an exciting opportunity to strategically think through is what he learned was most important. Possibly, after making good decisions in times past, he wired his intuition to act in a way which then saved his life.

The man who jumped out of the skyscraper learned a multi-step process to filter problems through. In our everyday life, beyond just in times of crisis, we can use the same set. For example, imagine you are playing

the game Scrabble. First, you recognize the problem scenario: you are challenged to put a seven letter word, beginning with the letter “z,” in a spot which gives you triple-word score, yet somehow connects to the word “bubble.” The second step is to analyze the cause or underlying factors of the problem:  you want to win the game so that you will not lose a $50 bet to your Uncle Bobby-Joe who does not believe you can win an English-language game after studying Japanese abroad for the past three years.  The next step in solving the problem is searching for creative alternatives. So, while your Uncle Bobby-Joe is guzzling down his coffee, you take your letter tiles, place them in front of you, and scramble them into every possible formation. You can make zroidbe, zoirlde, and zoudire (which you note, are not words). Then you discover you can connect to a “b” while arranging your letters just so.  You can make “zebroid,” which is a word (you remember a tour guide explaining that this is what you call the offspring of a zebra and a horse).  You choose this word, making a decision, and then implement it, by setting the tiles down on the board. After, you evaluate your decision, which you found agreeable, as it gave you enough points to win the game and get an addition $50 in pocket-cash.

This above example might seem silly, yet even when we play games we make decisions. On a more serious note, many people might go through the same process when trying to overcome a difficulty in an estranged relationship, whether it be a spouse, a parent, or a friend. In this case recognizing what the problem is can be much more challenging, as there are often multiple problems. Even after journaling or going to counseling to analyze the root causes of the problems you have been having with whomever, knowing what to do about it can be just as challenging, if not more so. There are many other factors that can influence your decision such as your value system (such as, you don’t believe in divorce), your knowledge (communication techniques), emotional intelligence (you feel so hurt or angry its hard to not be swayed by these feelings), personality, creativeness, and the politics surrounding the relationship.  Even after weighing the pros and cons, and making a choice to try to reconcile the relationship, then you have to take the step. This step can be the hardest, as implementing a decision can require a lot of strength, time, resources and energy, let alone sometimes it requires help. Lastly, once again, you can evaluate the decision, whether it was the best thing for to continue this relationship, even if it required a lot of sacrifice.

The important actions we must take in having a successful ability to make good decisions is the ability to analyze, whether it be really spending time discovering what the problem is, or really thinking through possible solutions. In another life scenario, a decision I have been questioning for awhile, is what car should we buy and how and when should we buy it. As I am a creative person, also known as a dreamer or visionary, thinking of creative alternatives is one of my strong points. Creative people tend to make the most of problems in which the sky is the limit, but in this case, the boundary for creative alternatives is more like the size of a small cottage, if not confining cage.  I cannot invent a new method of buying a car, let alone have the
skill to invent my own car. Also, another factor I struggle with is being easily influenced. I care a lot about being diplomatic and am always aware of inter-relational dynamics (political considerations). As I am a people-pleaser, I often don’t want to make a decisions that might influence another, wanting them to be as happy with me as possible. This can cause me to worry that making the ethnic dinner, involving a combination of new flavors, might not be everyone else’s favorite, and therefore I allow my level of emotional intelligence to hinder my decision to create. In the case of getting a car, I want my husband to be perfectly satisfied with whatever car we get, and I want it to be a good fit for our kids in addition just to the pros and cons I already am analyzing. I have been researching types of cars and their reviews from various sources, in addition to learning about how to get the best deal when buying a car new, used, down, or with a loan (and from where to get a loan). I often find myself overwhelmed by so much information that I experience analysis paralysis, in which I can’t make a decision because there is too much information to accurately process. Even so, I am sure I will be able to make a better decision than I would otherwise, without taking everything into consideration, even if I am not convinced that it is “perfect.” The one thing I learned from this section in our material was that I do not need to be indecisive as I am already well-equipped to make good decisions, thanks to my past experiences and the decision making process I already typically use. Instead of letting stresses, crises, time-constraints, emotions, too much information, or placing too much value on what everyone else might prefer affect my decisions, I should just enjoy the opportunities I have to solve problems, being energized as I let myself be creative in making decisions. Not surprisingly, this makes me feel a little more relaxed.

DuBrin, A. (2004). Applying psychology: Individual and organizational effectiveness (6th Ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson / Prentice Hall.


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