How Not To Solve Problems

Method 1: Be Passive Aggressive

While it should be obvious that being P/A with someone will never bring you to a desired solution, this seems like the default behavior for most people. Oh? So you’re not going to take out the trash? I’m going to eat your leftover pizza and lie about it later. I’m sorry, what? You’re not responding to my text messages? Let’s see what happens the next time you want to get drinks. I’ll totally cancel on you at the last minute. How do you like me now?

Why it Doesn’t Work

Being P/A is a power grab. You want to seem like you’re cool and unaffected about things only to reach around to fuck the other person when they least expect it. You want desperately to feel like you’re in control of the situation, of the other person’s decision making, and most of all, your own emotions. In light of this, I will ask you to recall Pavlov’s dog. It learned how to associate rewards through immediate and direct behavior reinforcement. Take notes.

How to Fix It

You’ve got to shape up or ship out. Talk about it or really, truly, actually get over it. Grow up and while you’re at it, grow a pair. So your roommate never cleans? Either accept you live with a slob and do the work or tell them to stop creating a living situation that constantly violates health codes. Your significant other has a roving eye? Stop using sex as a weapon and use your words to get what you want. Language is something specific to Homo Sapiens. Take advantage of your species.

Method 2: Be a Broken Record

On a different corner of the problem map, you’re that person who can’t leave it alone. I commend you on being up front, but you need to realize there is a fine line between being open and honest about your issues and being a heinous nag. Trust me; the other person understands that you have a problem if you bring it up over and over. And again the next morning. And then again in that not-as-subtle-as-you-think text message later that afternoon, “Just checking in to make see if you’ve given any more thought to our conversation” No. Go. The. Fuck. Away.

Why it Doesn’t Work

Sometimes what people need is to be left alone to reflect on what you have said before moving forward and addressing the issue. You might think the other person is deflecting or being a coward or even being passive/aggressive, but maybe what they’re doing is saying nothing because they’re focusing all their energy to repress the urge to stab you between the eyes. Give them some space. Maybe they need a few moments to remember why they like you in the first place. Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

How to Fix It

Maybe you’re the kind of person who is kind of a perfectionist and is never really satisfied. For the most part, your drive gets you what you want: a better job, a better table at a restaurant, or a better deal with your mechanic. But in your close personal relationships, sometimes you need to realize that your desire to have things “just so” can equate to an inability to enjoy someone’s company. Realize that you can be a part of the solution. Take deep breaths. Repeat “I will not be a heinous nag” when you get the urge to “make suggestions.” Fill your mind with other things. Connect deeply to other parts of your life. Feel more fulfilled. Then, maybe you’ll have learned how to let molehills be molehills. Once you’re there, you’ve earned a degree in Chilled the Fuck Out from the International Academy of Priorities. Congrats.

Method 3: Be Avoidant

And now, in yet another territory in the realm of problem solving, comes the theory of Speak No Evil. Sometimes this is okay. Sometimes it’s good to let things boil over, to sleep on it, to be selective about your words or actions. If I were forced to claim allegiance to one kingdom, I would be wearing the Family Crest of Eternal Silence across my chest. When I am mad at someone, I say nothing because I know if I start to speak, all that will come out is the wrathful hissing of my inner pit viper that threatens to poison everything with hateful, vituperous words. Instead, I swallow my anger and fester in solitude.

Why it Doesn’t Work

You can’t stay silent forever. If you do, you end up embarking on a one-way journey toward false martyrdom. By silently ingesting all of your problems, you believe you are laying the foundation to your sainthood. You’ve mistakenly equated keeping your head down and making no trouble with being a hero. No one besides you knows the weight of the crosses you choose to bear. If you say everything is fine, after awhile, everyone is going to believe you. Besides, do you know what happens to martyrs? They die under the burden of their sacrifices. Is that what you want?

How to Fix It

You have a voice, so speak up. You are not being courageous or honorable by keeping it to yourself. While you have the right to wait, don’t banish your anger in your gall bladder of bitterness. Consider imposing a 24 or 48 hour time limit on your silence. While you wait, try writing out a response or talking it over with a reasonable confidante. Do not feel guilty about your feelings or viewpoints. If the person you’re arguing with really cares about you, they want to hear your side of the story and work to make it better. You matter. Your opinion is important. Do not let yourself become trivial.

Method 4: Be an Adult

Sorry kids, sometimes when you try to be mature you still lose, because the other person is enlisting one of the three aforementioned methods of problem solving. It’s exasperating, right? You’ve learned how to deal with problems with maturity. You choose to talk about your problems over the phone or even in person rather than via text, gchat, or e-mail. You can gauge when you need to back off and give that person space or gently encourage someone to open up. You can call bullshit when you see it. You don’t play games. Unfortunately, you’re still being punished.

Why it Doesn’t Work

You grew up, and no one else did. Welcome to Maturityville. Population: You.

How to Fix It

It is tempting, but I implore you to resist the urge to lapse into your old ways. If pushed hard enough, you will not hesitate to come out of retirement to fuck shit up. You will want to say “To hell with maturity! Angry text messages! Circuitous logic in action!” Please rise above. Keep on being an adult. Remember, the goal is to unfuck the situation. It’s sad that sometimes being the bigger person will make you feel smaller than you ever imagined. If it all goes up in flames, you can at least have the satisfaction of life in the Gardens of Moral Victory. Real estate is pricey, but you’re an adult. You can afford it.

And, if all else fails, casually send them this article. It’s a little P/A, but fuck it. How else are they going to learn? TC mark

image – Gamma Man

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1363230138 Michael Koh

    This makes sense to me.

  • FC

    Damn, the brutal truth. And I though at very least being an adult would work. Need to start taking advantage of our species, and getting that degree from the CTFOFTIAOP. Good read right there.

  • Paideumaxx

    So glad this wasn't about Carrie Bradshaw/the rapture. Really enjoyed it.

  • http://www.oneyearintexas.com Perfect Circles

    Okay, I'm not going to do step #1 anymore.  We'll see how it works.

  • Teukros

    Were you looking for “vituperative”?  Other than that, this article was lots of fun to read.  You struck a pleasant balance of serious and informal.

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