Remember Martin: The problem is often not the problem.

“I am super stressed out about living on campus at college, I think I want to live off campus,” my daughter said as I picked up the Facetime call.

My neck got tight. Eyes narrowed. Child in danger, get ready to fight.

I pulled up the Next Right Action worksheet in my head and started through it. Pause. Let her talk. As she talked, I explored. Problem: How to switch from on-campus to off campus 10 days from start of semester. Finding apartments, getting room/board refund, roommates, etc…

“Don’t give me any of that Stoic bullshit, just listen to me.” she says.

Process interrupt. Error. Error. The problem was suddenly unclear. Maybe it was not solve the on/off campus tactical details. That problem would not be solved on a 15 minute Facetime call anyway. The acute problem was that she was stressed and needed some empathy and venting RIGHT NOW. After that she may be ready to move toward solving the on/off campus problem, but her FIRST problem was not THE problem.

So I listened. Put all problem solving on hold. Many times the best solution to a problem is to exit the problem solving loop at Explore and just be curious and listen.

After we both calmed down, we brainstormed a couple of things to explore to get more information to solve the on/off campus problem. We are going to talk again in a couple days. While THE problem of stress and venting was not 100% solved (she was still worried), it was reduced probably 70% and that is progress.

Remember Martin: Look for THE problem behind A problem.