When a problem arrives in the mail or on your doorstep, sometimes it’s human nature to ignore it. This is when the skill of problem solving helps.
Problem solving has three steps. First, get the facts before you act. Next, break it down. What don’t you understand? What don’t you know? Who can help you? Third, take it one step at a time. What do you need to do first? Second? Third?
Our Problem Solving Video takes you through the three steps.
3 Problem Solving Examples
1. Your car dies and you’re on you’re way to work. The worst reaction is to blow off work because you’ll get yelled at for being late. Get the facts. Are you out of gas or is something wrong with the engine? Break it down. Work’s important, so you need to take care of that first and then the car. How long would it take to walk or catch a bus? Is there anyone you can call for a ride? Take it one step at a time. If you have a cell phone, call in to work first. People are much more likely to cut you slack if you communicate, even if they’re annoyed with you. If you don’t have a cell phone, call into work as soon as you walk or get a ride back to one. Even if you’re hours late, call. Again, people are more likely to be sympathetic if they understand your situation.
2. Your $1,500 tax refund is garnished and you were counting on it. Don’t blow up and start yelling at people. Get the facts.The IRS can garnish a refund if you owe state or federal income taxes, or if you have a child support debt, or if you have student loan debt. Break it down. What does the notice about the garnishment say? Read it carefully. Is it accurate? Do you have such a debt? Do you have any records of this debt? Take it one step at a time. Is there a number to call if you have any questions? You can also go online to the Internal Revenue Service website. Look up “garnishment” in the search bar of the website to learn more. Look for a link about how to contact a local office. Get your thoughts and paperwork in order before you call. When you reach someone, explain the situation in a calm manner and ask for an appointment for personal help. You can also try going in during open hours if you can’t reach anyone by phone. If you think the garnishment is wrong, ask how to dispute (explain how you think they’ve done the wrong thing) the garnishment. Take it from there.
3. The utility bill is much higher than you thought it would be. Before you blow up, or ignore it, follow the problem solving steps. Get the facts. Read the bill carefully, taking note of the dates.Break it down. Is the bill for a longer billing period? Did your payment for the previous month not get counted toward the amount due? Has it been unusually hot or cold? Have you had guests? Added or changed a major appliance? Have a water leak? Take it a step at a time. Look for a customer service number on the bill. Get your thoughts in order and calm down before you call. Take notes while you talk to customer service. Ask what you can do for a payment plan if the bill is too large to pay off this month. Ask if they know of any community assistance plans for your area. Also let them know you are trying to take care of the bill. Go to your local human services department and ask about applying for LEAP, Colorado’s low-income energy assistance program.