Nothing ever changes! This never works! No one ever listens! You never change. My computer never works. This printer never prints! You’re never in your office! Every time I call, you’re on the phone! Everything is always the same. Nothing changes. I have been acutely aware of people speaking in absolutes. The absolutes can be about people, machinery, equipment, even situations which I’m sure you can come up with more to add to my list.
I have been keenly sensitive to my own absolutes. Mine sound much like those that I’ve been hearing. I have spent some time pondering the “absolute” attitude or even mind-set. I use the words “mind-set” because when I ask staff to not speak in an absolute, to speak specifically of the problem; most of them take a few minutes before they grasp the idea of my instructions. Some don’t ever understand what I’m getting at.
When I looked up the word “absolute”, I was surprised to find that outside of the absolute alcohol definition; most of the bullet points for the word were positive, not negative. (By the way, absolute alcohol means pure and unadulterated which may fit in with what I’m thinking as well.) The definitions included free from imperfection; complete; perfect as in absolute liberty. Another meant free from restriction or limitation, not limited in any way as in absolute command or absolute freedom. This definition even uses the word positive: positive, certain as in absolute in opinion or absolute evidence. However the definition that best fits what I’m hearing and thinking is complete, outright as in an absolute lie or in absolute denial. If I use the Thesaurus to look up synonyms, I find words like total, complete, utter, fixed, unquestionable, unconditional, conclusive, firm, resolved, definite, unmovable, final, and unchangeable.
Persons speaking in absolutes are most often frustrated by situations that they have no control over; even equipment that they don’t understand or have no control over. They have no hope that the problem can be changed. I’ve spoken to many parents and spouses who use absolutes when they’re talking about their loved ones. He can’t change!
From my own experience, I know that I can’t see the proverbial light at the end of the tunnel and begin to spout off absolutes: This never changes! We’re always out of money! Everything is always broken! I’ve found myself with an attitude of superstition not wanting to say: What next? Can any anything else go wrong? I feel that if I’m absolutely sure that there will be the next thing that happens and that anything else will certainly be happening within the next few minutes. Absolute thinking comes from frustrations to situations or people. Absolute thinking in this case is always linked to something negative event, situation, or behavior. Knowing how to solve problems can help with the absolute mind-set. Many times the problem exists based on my own perception or from the fact that I’m not getting my way. I don’t have control! I often feel “under the gun”, stressed, and very short for time when I begin to think in absolutes. I know that I can solidify that thinking by allowing it to continue. Then it becomes a mind-set for me.
The steps to problem solving include:
1) Do I understand why the problem exists or do I even need to understand why the problem exists? If I do understand why the problem exists, I’ll have a better time resolving it. Defining the root cause of the problem will help me to logically think it out or to be ready to explain the problem when I’m seeking help.
- What can I see that causes me to think there’s a problem?
- Where is it happening?
- How is it happening?
- When is it happening?
- With whom is it happening? (As a director, I need to address issues more than people.)
- Why is it happening?
- I can write down a five-sentence description of the problem.
2) I should try to clearly identify the problem and any obstacles that it presents. Often I’m seeing many problems that are a result of one problem. The computer doesn’t work. I never can get to do what I want. The screen is always dark.
I’ve made these statements when the computer has been unplugged or I forgot that I shut it down the last time I was on it. My mind goes immediately to a bigger problem when I have those rambling, negative, absolute statements going through my brain.
3) Once I’ve clearly identified the problem, I need to understand what I have control over and what I don’t. I must try to resolve the problem within the areas of what I do have control over. Do I have control over plugging the computer into the socket? Sure I do! Do I have control over the smoke that’s coming out of it? I don’t think so! I’ll need help!
4) Do I have all the information I need to resolve this problem? Solving problems is like being a detective. I should do my investigation of the facts before I
jump to those absolutes.
5) I should not jump to conclusions. Once I have all the information, once I’ve analyzed it carefully, once I’ve looked at it from different vantage points, I should be as objective as possible.
6) Now I’m ready to take action. I’ve got a strategy in place. Can I take care of this problem myself or do I need help? Do I need a second opinion? If I don’t have control over this situation, do I know someone who can help me? Does someone else have control over it?
Simply put, problem solving includes:
1) Defining the problem.
2) Looking for potential causes of the problem.
3) Identifying alternatives for approaches to resolve the problem.
4) Selecting an approach to resolve the problems.
5) Planning the implementation of the best alternative. Take action!
6) Re-evaluating the action plan.
7) Verifying if the problem has been resolved.
I’m praying that God will help me to be more aware of my “absolute mentality” so that I can change it. My desire is to be a positive role model as was Jesus. God designed me to be a problem-solver and to be a leader. I can’t lead people when I have that negative nothing ever changes attitude. I am in the business of change! Finally, I’m going to instruct the other leaders of my organization to identify their absolute thinking as well. When we are bringing a problem to the table, we will identify the root of the problem and bring possible solutions as well. We’re a team that has a foundation built on the principles of God’s Word. There is ABSOLUTELY nothing that we can’t handle when we ask for God’s wisdom and stay in prayer. Absolutely!