We all encounter problems in everyday life, from work-related sums that just don’t add up to complex emotional dramas kicking off in the group chat.
Different problems require different skills, so we’ve made a list of the top 15 characteristics and behaviors that allow someone to excel when it comes to solving them.
1. They think logically.
‘Problem-solving’ probably brings to mind puzzles or pattern-finding tests from your school days—so it’s no surprise a lot of us break into a cold sweat when thinking about it!
Logical thinking is important with these more traditional types of problems, but the same can be said of other types of issue that you face in life. Whatever the thing is that needs a solution, approaching it logically is usually a good idea.
Being logically-minded allows you to see problems for what they are: puzzles to be solved. You’re able to remove emotion or experience from what’s in front of you and look for patterns, key themes, or discrepancies.
By identifying what’s going on in a rational way, logical thinkers are often the first to solve problems that need a cool-headed, objective approach.
2. They are creative.
We’ve all heard about thinking outside the box, and that’s for a reason. By being able to think creatively, you’re bringing a new perspective to things. You’re not constrained to ‘normal’ or common ways of thinking—and that’s great, so run with it!
We’re not suggesting you start reading things upside down or searching for invisible ink, but your unique way of looking at things is invaluable to solving problems.
Creative thinking means that you’ll pick up on aspects of a problem that more constrained thinkers might have neglected to consider. This is especially helpful when it’s a people-centric problem that goes beyond rational objectivity, and, instead, is personal, sensitive, or emotional to solve.
3. They are patient.
Not all problems are straightforward, especially those that involve people and their feelings. Patience is one of the key skills needed to problem-solve.
Rushing or getting impatient can cause people to feel judged or like an inconvenience, which means they’ll be less willing to get involved or open up to you.
If the problem relates to a person and how they feel, you need to ensure they feel valued and can trust you. Only then will they fully open up and give you key details that will help you solve the problem.
If this doesn’t come easily to you, don’t worry! Patience is like a muscle: the more you exercise it, the stronger it will become.
4. They collaborate well with others.
Being collaborative is so important if you’re problem-solving in a group, whether it’s colleagues or friends.
This is closely connected to communication skills and covers talking, leadership, listening, and supporting those around you. It’s also about getting people to open up and feel involved and respected.
By having strong collaboration skills, you’re able to not only communicate well but engage others, too. If you can rally the troops and find a way to ensure everyone feels heard, you’re more likely to solve a problem.
You might find that you’re a natural leader, so getting others to collaborate comes easily to you—if so, thrive on this and don’t be afraid to take charge and lead your team to victory!
5. They practice active listening.
Remember that not all problems are puzzles or riddles. Sometimes, the biggest problems to solve are emotional ones—your friend complaining about a partner and trying to come to a resolution or a loved one conflicted about a career move.
Active listening is a crucial skill to have when it comes to solving these kinds of problems.
By putting your active listening skills to use, you’re able to develop better, more honest communication with those around you. The more someone feels heard by you, the more they open up—and the more they open up, the more information you get to crack the code with!
6. They make good decisions.
Solving problems is all about making decisions. Sure, the last decision you make is the one that gives you your answer, but every choice you make in the process will lead you down paths that either help or hinder it.
Decision-making is about reviewing all the information you can get hold of and making an informed choice; weighing up the pros and cons; finding a balance between intuition and analytics.
Being able to make decisions—and ensuring that anyone else involved feels heard as part of that—is key when it comes to solving problems.
You’re able to efficiently analyze the information you have and make a choice that gains you more insight and understanding. A chain of strong decisions is a surefire way to get to the bottom of any problem.
7. They know when and how to do research.
Some problems are too big, complex, or niche to figure out through communication skills and patience alone.
This is especially true for problems that are unlike any you’ve had to solve before—which is where research skills really come in handy.
You might know nothing about the subject you’re trying to troubleshoot, or you might have no life experience with the issue your friend needs support with.
As a strong researcher, however, you’re able to find the information you need by searching, honing in on key details, and compiling crucial insights.
Your analytical skills will help you get rid of anything that’s clouding your judgement and focus on clarity and getting to the root of the problem.
8. They are determined.
Solving a problem rarely happens straightaway—you need to be ready to keep pushing through and adapting.
This takes a lot of resilience, so being prepared to be patient and keep going is critical.
This is also an infectious personality trait—the more you show others around you that there is value in pursuing a solution, the more they’ll be willing to throw themselves into it with you, and the less likely they’ll be to give up when the going gets tough.
Some problems can take months, if not years, to fully solve. Of course, some are resolved within a day, but you’ll need high levels of determination regardless.
It might be that you can’t source vital information, or that you’re coming up against restrictions regarding money or red tape at work. Being able to stay motivated in the face of adversity is a great skill to have when it comes to solving problems.
9. They have a strong sense of intuition.
Sometimes, you just gotta go with your gut!
Being able to tune in and listen to your intuition is something that’s often overlooked when it comes to more ‘traditional’ problem-solving skills. Rather than simply relying on logic or analytical skills, learning to listen to your body and mind is a great way to lean into problem-solving.
The ‘feeling’ you get when you think someone might be lying to you is what leads you to dig deeper; the notion that something isn’t quite adding up is what makes you double-check or ask for a second pair of eyes.
Don’t be afraid to tap into your intuition!
10. They are highly organized.
Being organized in your approach to problem-solving will save you a lot of time and effort. Whether it’s color-coding information for speedier retrieval or filing away important emails so they don’t get lost, your ability to stay organized will really help you.
If you’re solving some kind of logical, work-based task, you’ll be grateful that you kept track of previous issues and how they were resolved.
If you’re trying to help a loved one with a dilemma, your ability to sift through messages or screenshots will help you give rounded, informed advice.
Whatever the problem, organizational skills will be of huge benefit.
11. They keep a level head.
Whatever kind of issue you’re resolving, the ability to remain calm under pressure is key!
It’s easy to get frustrated or rush through things because you want a quick fix, and many people take these feelings out on others in their team. While this is understandable, it’s not conducive to an efficient process.
By staying balanced and level-headed, you’re able to make rational decisions rather than emotional ones. You’ll be able to analyze information calmly and take a logical approach to the next best steps.
You’ve also got the capacity to get everyone on the same page (as much as is humanly possible!) by using logic to explain your decisions.
12. They remain flexible.
Nope, not bendiness—unless your problem is yoga-related—but the ability to adapt.
It’s likely that the first thing you try isn’t going to work, so, rather than just doing the same thing over and over again, good problem-solvers know how to change their behavior or mindset to get different results.
The downward dog of problem-solving is the capacity to adjust your approach based on new information and how well your approaches so far have worked.
Being open to new ideas and ways of doing things is crucial, so, if you struggle with this, practice having a bit of wiggle room and letting go of a strict, set way of doing things. One step at a time…
13. They take the initiative.
Life’s answers don’t just walk up to you, you have to find them.
It’s the same with solving pretty much any issue—you need to be proactive and seek things out. Being able to take the initiative means that you’re able to both act and react rather than simply wait.
While remaining respectful of other people’s feelings, you’re not the kind of person to sit around and let people tell you what to do. Instead, you’re thinking on your feet and coming up with new ideas on the fly.
You’re picking up the phone to get more information from someone, you’re troubleshooting as you go, and you’re not afraid to be the first one to try a new approach.
14. They display empathy.
Empathy is key when it comes to solving problems.
If you’re in a team, you need to be able to read the room and gauge how everyone else is feeling. In this instance, being empathetic is about being aware and respectful of how others are feeling.
That means being understanding if others are struggling with the challenge, rather than just getting frustrated. It also means being aware that some issues are sensitive and you need to be led by other people, not just your own instinct.
When it comes to solving more personal problems, you need a high level of empathy in order to build trust, get people to open up to you, and put yourself in their shoes.
You might be able to come up with a solution to someone’s problem within 5 seconds but, if it doesn’t align with how they feel and what they want, it’s not really a solution.
Think about how they’d want to tackle the problem and whether or not they’d be comfortable with the same things you would—only then can you provide a solution that genuinely works for them.
15. They look to the long term.
You might not be able to predict the weather, but you will need to be able to look ahead and make forecasts.
Problem-solving is rarely about quick fixes—it’s about longer-term, sustainable solutions.
Rather than coming up with a million ways to sort something for a few hours or days, you’ll be able to think ahead and foresee any potential issues that will crop up later down the line.
While quick thinking and reactivity are great skills to have, there’s no point in creating a solution that only works in the short term.
You’re able to think about knock-on effects spanning human behavior, budgets, circumstance changes, and economic adjustments.
You can see the variables involved and can predict, or give an informed guess about, how they’ll affect your solution. This means that you can run through all your options and choose the one that has the most longevity to it.
The above skills are often identified by hiring managers as crucial to business success, but they lend themselves just as well to personal, people-focused problems.
Whether you’re in the workplace or on WhatsApp, putting these skills to use will help you find a solution more efficiently.
And the great news? They’re all learnable skills, so start practicing and you’ll be a pro-problem-solver in no time!
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