The ‘Dear Abby’ Method of Problem Solving

I have a sordid confession to make. I have an addiction. A huge addiction to advice columns. Dan Savage, Carolyn Hax, Dear Sugar, I seldom go a day without a fix.  My new favorite is Naomi Dunford’s IttyBiz Confessional (I hope she doesn’t get bored of it because it’s amazing!)

I like them because I’m always looking for other people’s responses to universal problems– and that’s why we like advice columns, because they speak to the human condition. So much so that you wonder why the hell people are STILL asking what they can do to get their adult children to send their wedding thank-yous.

I’ll tell you why: Because we get so overwhelmed by the minutiae of the situation we’re in that we couldn’t find our ass with both hands. So we reach out. “Please, just tell me what to do! Am I crazy or is she?”

How This Can Work For You

This method can demolish any problem presented, in less time than it takes to put words to paper. And it saves on postage! So when you come across a seemingly insurmountable problem, I want you to sit down and write a letter. A letter to someone knowledgeable and approachable, with expertise in your particular area of difficulty.

Lay out the whole situation for them. Leave nothing out. You will probably start to squirm about two paragraphs in. Keep going. Carry on to examining potential plans of action, possible responses, places where you should tweak or innovate.

Put in all your complaints, all the excuses why this method or that hasn’t worked. Explain what’s been holding you back, be forthright in addressing the first things a reader will think of.

Before very long, your problem will start to shrink in importance. It will start to look extremely manageable, and you will feel kind of foolish for wasting this important person’s time on your petty problems so you’ll X out the document and go fix your own damn problem.

This is particularly useful for finding the most obvious solution to your problem. You know, the one that everyone can see but you? Yeah. I hate that.

You’re welcome!

[ssbp]

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