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There are some problems that are harder for us to solve.

Not for lack of data, reasoning skills, intuition, or experience. But for the impediment of emotional attachment. The emotional attachment we don’t have to a problem explains why it is always easier to examine and solve someone else's problems.

We should probably add emotional attachment as a default branch in every fishbone diagram. Depending on the nature of the problem, this can be a significant cause and impediment to resolution.

Our emotional attachment to the solution of a problem hampers intuition and reasoning, both of which are critical to problem-solving.

So how do we reduce our emotional attachment to the solution of a problem?

Depending on the nature of the problem, this can be really hard. A problem that directly threatens our safety, especially financial and personal, will have a higher emotional load than one that affects the results of, say, a customer survey of an app we have developed.

Acknowledge: That we are emotionally vested in the outcome. That we feel frustrated, frightened, threatened, etc. Like adding the branch on the fishbone diagram, acknowledgement puts the factor on the table, so it can be dealt with. Without making these tangible and real, these can only fester and grow in our minds.

Quantify: On a scale of 1 to 10, how severe are our emotional responses? 10 frustrated, 8 frightened, 7 threatened, etc. Quantifying amorphous factors like feelings helps to make them real. It is not unusual to discover that although we feel 8 out of 10 threatened by a problem, we are actually 2 out of 10 fearful of it. Revelations like this can help push us further ahead.

Distance: The more able we are to view the problem as a distinct entity, separate from our self-esteem, our identity, our ego, etc., the more we will reduce our emotional attachment to it. We can draw parallels with other, less threatening, situations: what if the problem is like organising a group outing? We can put ourselves outside the picture: what if Mei Lan is responsible for solving this problem?

Detach: Seeking external perspectives from people who are not emotionally attached to the problem. Professionals who have training and experience in problem-solving such as counsellors can be powerful sounding boards. Counterintuitively, the less the know about your industry, the fresher their perspective. Seeking help from our closest and dearest, or colleagues and supervisors, can backfire in the emotional attachment sense. Inevitably, these people are already emotionally vested in the outcome. Their attachment could only add more angst to ours.

Like our physical health, the ongoing maintenance of our emotional wellbeing is important to make us more able to respond to problems. Just like we really should not wait until our first heart attack to start going to the gym, we should not wait until our first nervous breakdown to start building our emotional resilience.