Problem-maker or problem-solver?

Which one are you? It normally doesn't take very long to pick which category somebody falls into. With the infinite wisdom that comes with being 27 years old, I find myself drawn to the people that solve problems and repelled by the people who create problems. Even if I don't realise it at the time! Now, this doesn't mean that I want everyone to go around talking about rainbows and sunshine and lollipops and ignoring the problems - quite the opposite. You can acknowledge the problem, have a can-do attitude and find a solution. You can acknowledge the problem, have a can't-do attitude and wallow in your own misery. Or, you can ignore the problem, push it down into the depths of your soul and be an unpleasant and repressed sad-sack for the rest of your existence.

I know what I'd rather be.

But what is a problem-maker? Problem-makers will typically point out and dramatise aspects of their life (or your life) that they view to be negative. Which might sound like this: "I saw your new website, man, I know this guy whose site is so much better than yours." Or maybe "Nothing is going right for me at the moment, you wouldn't understand, your life is perfect." Or even "I don't need to hear about your work, tell me - when will you two be tying the knot?" Sound familiar? Yep, they've just created a problem you didn't even realise you had. These people will cause drama within their social circle, to distract from the lack of fulfilment in their own lives. They will talk behind your back, pitting people against you. They will pit you against others. They will not support you in attempts to make your life better, and they will find excuses why they can't improve their own. Now, you can be a 100% problem-maker or lower down on the spectrum. At their worst, these people are destructive and toxic. At their best, they may be people who need to be gently guided towards more productive viewpoints.

Problem-solvers, on the other hand, are people who will acknowledge their own problems (or yours) and be supportive, positive and helpful in overcoming the issue. This may sound like: "Don't worry honey, we'll find a way around it." Or perhaps "That's a great idea, what if we did this as well?" And maybe "Whatever you decide to do, I'll be here to help." Hopefully a few of these ring true and help you identify the problem-solvers in your life. These people will avoid drama and focus on bringing peace. They will support your decisions, and offer you constructive criticism when needed. They will let you know any issues they have with you to your face, and work through them with you. They come to you for constructive help in their own lives, and genuinely want what's best for both of you. Encouraging you to make choices in pursuit of fulfilment and happiness, they focus on how great things are/can/will be.

Even as I wrote those descriptions, my brain flicked through my mental contact list and assigned each person a place on the spectrum between problem-solver and problem-maker. Did you realise a few people you know fall into one of those categories?

It's often said that you're the average of the 5 people you hang around most. And I've found that the problem-makers breed a clique of problem-makers to surround themselves with. And the problem-solvers surround themselves with like minded people also. Which has lead me to seriously take into consideration the people I spend time with these days. Because I don't want to become a negative, unambitious and miserable cog-in-the-machine. I bet you don't either!

Now, I'm not saying immediately delete everyone from Facebook and stop replying to messages from your problem-making friends and family. I'm just saying to be aware. As soon as you're aware of the nay-sayers, it gives them less sway over you. You're less likely to absorb their unwanted perspective. And in turn, you'll start to notice the positive influencers in your life. The people who have a helpful attitude and help make you a better version of yourself. If you are sometimes a problem-maker yourself, fear not! By noticing these two perspectives, you can focus on when you're problem-making and fix it. Simply by noticing this, you'll slowly be able to adjust your way of thinking and become more of a problem-solver. When you catch yourself thinking "Oh I can't get healthy because I can't afford a gym membership" you can acknowledge that it's a problem-making attitude and replace it with "I can go for a run instead!"

This can be polarising - so be careful. As soon as you become a full blown problem-solving machine of awesomeness - it can bring the problem-makers out to the surface. Perhaps you didn't realise your friends had this attitude, until suddenly it's developed in opposition to your newfound stance. I find that those people are lost causes - either your friends will become more like you as you become better, or they will become less like you and fight every problem-solving remark you make.

Unfortunately, I see this all the time. And you know what? Some problem-makers are so stuck in their pit of despair, that they dig their heels in and refuse help entirely. And that's pretty damn unpleasant to be around. (Now, obviously when it comes to people experiencing mental illness, the situation needs to be reconsidered.) But if you have people in your life that are making problems for you, and being a toxic influence on your own quest to the top of gumdrop mountain, cut 'em loose. Cut. Them. Loose. You can either just emotionally distance yourself from them, maybe don't hang out with them as much. Or you can tell them flat out that you feel they aren't a positive aspect of your life and you don't want to spend time with them anymore. Harsh. But sometimes necessary.

This can be particularly difficult with family members. If you have a problem maker close to you, and cutting them loose really isn't an option - the best thing to do is talk to them. Initiate a gentle conversation next time they say a problem-making remark. Point out that their negative view point or defeatist attitude doesn't help you, and ask them to be more supportive. They probably don't realise that what they say is affecting you so much, and will be surprised that they've caused you unhappiness. Let them know that it's okay, but you'd like them to focus more on being supportive, positive and helpful.

And there we have it! There's my weekly rant. The hardcore problem-makers really piss me off, and I think if we're all more aware of this type of attitude and behaviour, we can work towards eradicating it. I don't believe it's an in-built personality trait, I believe it's something that is learnt from difficult life experiences or the people around us. Which means we can fix it! Onwards and upwards, comrades.

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