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Problem-SolvingConflict is common in most relationships. The way we handle conflict will either strengthen or weaken our relationships. We are encouraged to use problem-solving skills, but how I would solve the problem might look different from how you would. That’s because there are four orders of problem-solving. I call them “orders” rather than steps, because each level requires a leap in consciousness, a completely different orientation to the problem. Let’s look at the four orders of problem-solving and how they are different.

We will begin with the first order, the most basic and undeveloped strategy: using force to get what I want. Force could be either forceful words or actions, but the emphasis is on myself. I am primarily concerned with my needs.

The second order is using diplomacy to get what I want. This reflects the dawning awareness of others, the recognition that it is destructive to use force. However, the emphasis is still primarily on myself.

The third order is to find a solution to the problem that will serve both people involved. It shows compassion and consideration for the other person as well as meeting our own needs. There is a desire to find happiness for both people.

The fourth and most sophisticated order is to understand how the problem isn’t really a problem. This demonstrates an advanced comprehension of what is truly essential in life, a broader perspective. It is a way to apply a different meaning to the “problem” so that it is now appreciated in a new way. The original “problem” dissolves even if we decide to take action to try to change the situation. This reflects a universal consciousness, seeing meaning in everything and everyone.

Here are some tips to help you begin working with the four orders of problem-solving now:

  • First, notice what order of problem-solving you use most of the time in your dealings with others. Realize that you do have other options that can help you achieve greater happiness in your relationships.
  • Begin your practice by focusing on the next level up, for example, try moving from level one to two, two to three, or three to four. As you master each level, it becomes easier to tackle the next.
  • Be aware of potential blocks to progress. After each block I have listed a way to get unblocked.

Level One – Fear that you won’t get what you need -> There are many ways to get what you need.
Level Two – Fear that you will have to give up control -> You can’t really control others, hard as you might try.
Level Three – Fear that meeting others needs will be a burden -> You may be surprised to find an easy solution for both people, for example, you may discover that what they want is also something you want.
Level Four – Fear that you have to accept all “negative” situations -> You can always take action for change even while understanding the usefulness of the situation. You can also have fun with the problem rather than suffering through it, enjoy it, appreciate it as useful, instructive, and an opportunity for self-betterment and growth.

Working with the four orders of problem-solving is a great way to resolve conflict, strengthen and improve your relationship. It also is a way to develop personal growth as well.