Problem Solving Steps - Questions

First, answer these questions

What's the problem?

Every problem has a unique solution. So, especially when problems pile up, it helps to tackle them one by one. You may have a number of concerns or complaints, but try to isolate the one that's most important or most urgent, then address that first, by itself. That way, when you contact someone to help, that person can focus on getting you the help that you need the most, without being distracted or feeling overwhelmed by too many problems all at once.

TIP: You should be able to summarize your concern or complaint in a single sentence. That way, others can understand it and may be able to help you to solve it quickly, or help you to figure out who can.


What do you want to happen?

Before you can get the result you want, you need to know exactly what that is. Venting may make you feel better, but it's unlikely to make a difference. If you want someone to take action, you need to be prepared to say just what to do. There's no point in demanding apologies and punishments, either, because that just leads to power struggles. Besides, asking for change and making that happen is much more satisfying!

EXAMPLE: You get a grade that's lower than you think you deserve: You need to be able to say what you think your final grade should be. To figure that out, you might have to go back to all the grades you got in that class and look at the grading info on the syllabus. But, once you did that, you could go beyond griping to maybe actually getting a different grade.

EXAMPLE: You feel mistreated and want to make sure that doesn't happen again: Maybe you can't rewrite history to make things better for yourself, but you don't want history to repeat itself, either. Staging a confrontation isn't likely to help. Instead, you want to suggest a more fair way to handle a situation like yours the next time around.


Who should you talk to?

The problem-solving pathways shows the right person to talk to, depending on what kind of complaint or concern you have.

You can solve most problems quickly, just by talking with the right person first. If that doesn't work, your pathway will tell you who should be next on your list. Stepping off the pathway can be time-consuming and frustrating, because people don't like to make decisions over someone else's head. In fact, usually they're not allowed to do that.

TIP: Don't be tempted to start "at the top." Although you might hope for the person in charge just to hear you out and make a final decision on the spot, that's actually pretty unlikely. More likely is that you'd waste a lot of time and energy trying to get in to see that person, only to be told, in the end, that you need to start off by meeting with the first person shown on your pathway.

TIP: You don't need to meet alone with someone who you have reason to believe might punish you. Of course, that's a rare thing to happen around here, so you wouldn't want to just assume that anyone might react in a really extreme way. However, if you have good cause for fearing that, then you might want to jump to the person who's shown in the next place on your pathway and request a joint conference. Or, you could talk to someone in Student Affairs, which handles the most complicated problems: