Change the details or the scenario to see a problem differently

We’ve all faced tough situations where we weren’t quite sure what to do or we’re struggling to see the other side of the argument.

When this happens, one effective technique is to change the details or change the scenario to try to gain a new perspective.

Change the scenario

This is changing the setting of the situation. Think of it like a play where the plot and the script are basically the same, but the setting is different.

This can be especially helpful if you are emotionally involved in the situation.

One of my favorite ways to utilize this technique is to think what the situation would look like on an elementary school playground.  This isn’t because I think two adults having conflict are childish; rather, it helps me get to the very basic issue of the problem and name it in a simple way.  For example, I might see two adults in conflict and use this technique to identify the fundamental problem. Such as “person a is bullying person b” or “person a is purposefully excluding person b.” Identifying the problem in such simple terms also usually makes the solution very clear.

Other ways to change the scenario:

  • What if we were having this conversation at the family dinner table?
  • What if this conversation were happening at another company? How would I advise them?
  • What if we were on a stage in front of others, would this conversation be ok? Or look the same?
  • What if a friend came to me with this problem?

Change the details

Another way to see a situation from a whole new light is to change the details.

In this exercise, you leave the setting and people alone, but change various details of the situation. So, the play scene is the same, the actors and actresses are the same, but something about the situation has changed.

Ways to change the details:

  • If the situation involves something you are emotionally passionate about, change it to something you aren’t emotionally passionate about. This can be especially helpful for anything political.
  • Or the opposite, if you’re not emotionally passionate about the subject, substitute in a subject you are passionate about.
  • Remove various elements of a situation and then ask how you’d solve it. For example, “If money weren’t a factor, how would I make this decision?”




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