One of the biggest problems in communities - and in life - is how to deal with problems.
Problems are unmet needs that one wants to turn into met needs. The solution to a problem is therefore to find a strategy to meet one's need and to take action upon that solution.
Let's explore a scenario between two people and how it would ideally unfold:
- Person A has a need and Person B does not fulfill his need. For example, John has a need for calmness when he goes to sleep while Roberta plays music loud at night.
- Person A figures out with Person B the solution to align their needs. For example, John goes to Roberta, explains his need of calmness, wherefore Roberta explains her need of having to train for a music competition, and they come to a conclusion that Roberta stops playing music in ten minutes.
That is how problems should be tackled. But this is not the most common scenario.
Because when people experience an unmet need, they experience certain personal tensions (feelings) which will change their states. And if they're not mindfully realizing this, they might let their change of state influence their behavior negatively - which will create interpersonal tensions in trying to find a solution.
Here is how most real-world scenario look like:
- Person A has a need and Person B does not fulfill his need. Let's take the same example as above: John has a need for calmness when he goes to sleep while Roberta plays music loud at night.
- The state of person A changes. John is feeling frustration because he won't be able to fulfill his goal to sleep. He is feeling even more frustrated since it's the second time this happens in two days.
The new state influences person A's behavior. John is now letting out his frustration on Roberta and yells at her for being loud.
While John and Roberta can figure out a solution while John is yelling, what will most probably happen is that it will be harder for Roberta to engage with John. Moreover, John will not be in a state of listening when Roberta explains why she is playing music.
From here, two negative outcomes are possible:
- Person's A new behavior triggers an unmet needs in Person B. Roberta has a need for loving kindness and reacts defensively to John's yelling, calling in her roommates.
- Person's A new state puts the focus on more unmet needs. Because John is in a frustrated state, his attention is now put on "what is wrong" and he starts observing more unmet needs, such as the lack of cleanliness on his way to seeing Roberta.
This then creates an avalanche of triggers, frustrations and problems.
Because when trying to solve a problem, it is equally important to think about how to solve the need while also to notice how we are behaving while coming up to a solution.
It is harder to come to a solution if people are reactive and not listening.
It is harder to come to a solution if people see each other as threats.
It is harder to come to a solution if people are triggered and can't find the right words to express their need.
This is why changing people's states (for example from frustration to gratefulness) is often more efficient than discussing solutions per se.
By doing this, people will feel safe, will be able to express themselves with the right words and it will save time in finding the solution. On top of that, it will avoid the creation of a traumatic precedent - which would create a bitter memory and scare people to bring up their problems in the first place.
Personally, I've done this not only with communities, but in different types of relationships:
- Relationship with self: my best self shows up when I'm in a loving, calm, playful and/or open state. This is when my mind focuses on solutions instead of problems, where my creativity flows and where I experience flow states.
- Relationship with my partner and closest friends: most problems are often not about problems, but about frustrations that have been built up and not expressed over time. Being able to get rid of frustrations before talking about the problem has saved lots of tensions in my relationships
- Relationships in communities: not only coliving, but also work communities are an example of that. This is why I like to start my meetings with music, doing emotional check-ins and saying words of gratitude before going into problem-solution-mode.
Ultimately, the process can be summarized in this simple equation:
SOLVING A TENSION = CHANGING THE STATE + FINDING A STRATEGY TO MEET THE NEED
Ultimately, this whole equation boils down to living life in alignment. As I thought of this weekend, alignment is a relationship between two elements that creates flow (or harmony). If needs are met, then the individual(s) are able to flourish.
It's about aligning needs with reality - solving the tensions to live in flow.
Being able to put words on this has been one of my biggest breakthroughs. I've not only been applying this approach to problem-solving as a friend, but also as a personal coach, as a community facilitator when living in coliving spaces and as a coliving consultant when creating systems to maintain these states.
In short, I can now confidently state that I help people and communities to live in flow and removing tensions by being in their best states and finding strategies to align needs with reality.
And now goes the question to you: how do you change and influence the states of your community?
If you don't have a community, you can also respond on how you change your personal state or the one of relationships with people who are close to you.
PS: If you answer stands out, I'd be happy to promote it to the wider community.
Have a lovely end of the week,