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Home > Audio, Podcast, Show > The pain of solving a problem today is always less than the pain of solving it tomorrow – Podcast

The pain of solving a problem today is always less than the pain of solving it tomorrow – Podcast

December 12th, 2011

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Human conflict can be troubling to all parties involved. For myself, being forced into conflict with others leaves me drained, even when the problems are small. That said, many of us put off important, if painful, discussions much longer than is healthy. We think that sparing ourselves and others the pain of a a difficult conversation today, is more important than solving the problem. Surely, we can talk about it later. The trouble being, though, the pain of solving a problem today is always less than the pain of solving it tomorrow. Conflict might be frightening, angering and depressing, but I can guarantee you it will only get worse the longer you procrastinate.

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Why do today what you can put off until tomorrow?

Humans are great at procrastination, especially if pain, either physical or mental, is involved. We can convince ourselves in any number of ways that we are better off ignoring the problem instead of facing it. You might think to yourself, “It isn’t the right time”, “They are already suffering”, “They’ll only get mad at me”, “They should just ‘know’ what the problem is”. The truth is, now is always the best time to discuss and act on a problem. Once a problem is discovered, each passing day makes it harder and harder to address. Our resistance builds up. Our courage falls away and we just tell ourselves we’ll talk about it…later.

I see this very often with parents. Instead of addressing a behavior issue immediately, they convince themselves that they will address it later…and later…and later. The problem is, of course, that addressing a problem immediately will usually quash it forever with very little emotional pain, but trying to resolve a long standing problem can be gut-wrenching. If you have allowed your son or daughter to engage in a behavior you dislike for years and years, their reaction to the conversation is going to be much more forceful and dramatic.

In some extreme cases, you might not be able to solve the problem at all. By allowing the problem to continue year after year, your tacit approval has shown that you don’t really think it is a problem at all. Children may even lash out at you for being unreasonable after so many years. The conversation quickly becomes about you and your behavior instead of the problem at hand.

In the worst cases, addressing a problem too late can even cause a split in the family, in the relationship or in a marriage. Imagine facing a painful problem that could have and should have been addressed years before. While you were trying to avoid a little pain, you eventually caused yourself a great amount.

What to do?

The most important action to take when faced with conflict or problems is to talk about it. If something bothers you, say so. Don’t let it fester inside of you. Get it out now, when it is a small problem. Start the conversation early. Yes, if you are like me, you might feel uncomfortable for a little while, but it is nothing like the discomfort you will feel if you leave the problem unresolved.

As a son from a somewhat reserved farm family in Ohio, I learned a great deal about conflict from my Sicilian-American wife. She doesn’t let a problem pass. If she is peeved, angry or upset about something, she will let you know immediately. We might even have a bit of loud discussion about it. That said, what’s over is over. Everyone says what needs to be said. Everyone gets heard. Changes are discussed and devised and life goes on. As my wife often said about her Sicilian Grandfather, “We might fight tooth and nail during the day, but every night we kissed each other on the cheek before we went to bed.”

It might look and sound volatile to some, but getting the problem out into the open and actively discussed and debated is the most healthy way of dealing with it. It is only when we sit and stew, harboring resentment for days, weeks or even years, that problems turn into hateful arguments, resentful families and broken marriages. 
Don’t let the fear of a little pain stop you from addressing important issues. Talk about them now. Deal with them now. Solve them now. If you don’t, they will only grow more scary, more intractable and more painful with each passing moment.

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