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Debugging problems

Virginia Satir, the pioneer of family therapy and human systems, said:

“The problem isn’t the problem; coping is.”


Ponder this for a moment:

Today, the ‘problem’ that you have, or see, or is brought to you, isn’t a problem at all.

It’s simply a situation, or some facts, or a pattern. There’s no naughty or nice.

But if it is not the problem, what is?

The problem is our coping response.


Now consider:

Imagine the next time you’re outside, someone throws a ball at your head at 100 MPH. What would your coping response be?

Personally, my coping response would probably be to scream and drop to the ground!

But people who play tennis or baseball have learned a different coping response. They’ve learned to keep their cool, and hit the ball with a racket or bat.

Having a ball whizzing at your head is not the problem – how we respond to it is.

Once we realize that, we can start to debug our coping response.


Questions to debug your coping response:

  • How do you feel about the situation?
  • What past situation does that feeling remind you of?
  • How is this situation different?
  • Can you name the coping response you see?
  • What new coping responses are available to you?
  • What might be a better fit for this situation?


How this helps leaders

Today you’ll be blindsided by something stressful – guaranteed.

You can choose to view it as a “problem” – which leaves you victimized by it.

Or, you can view it as a “situation” that you must to cope with, and look at your own coping response. If your coping response isn’t working for you, you can work to change it.

Do you see someone who’s struggling to cope with situations in their world?  If so, pass this along to them.


Stay curious,


About Marcus Blankenship

Where other technical coaches focus on process or tools, I focus on the human aspects of your Programmer to Manager transition. I help you hire the right people, create the right culture, and setup the right process which achieves your goals. Managing your team isn't something you learned in college. In fact, my clients often tell me "I never prepared for this role, I always focused on doing the work". If you're ready to improve your leadership, process and team, find out how I can help you.

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