A mentor told me this one day in our session, and it really resonated with me because it’s so true. In working with a spectrum of personalities over my academic and professional career over the past 10 years, I have consistently found that most people love to bring up problems; but very few of those people actually do anything about them. This boils down to the “all talk, no action” phenomenon that I am sure many of us have been guilty of before.

I am not implying that we should cease our complaining, because the first step to addressing a problem is actually bringing it up. However, I think we’re all capable of thinking one step ahead of the issue at hand. If we’re complaining about something, then surely we think there is a better solution out there. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be complaining in the first place.

By simply starting a discussion around a particular topic, we’re only lighting the spark. But love and science have proved that sparks can easily die. To build a fire around the problem and “bring it to light” amongst a wider audience can be difficult. If it doesn’t directly affect them, people tend to be disinterested because they are busy with their own problems. To get around this, we need to prove that our problems do affect them in some way.

How do we do that?

It is important that we think one step ahead to eliminate the pointless back-and-forth conversations with others. If we want to prove that our problems are other peoples’ problems, then we need to highlight as such. Here are 3 tips that I have learned about to help highlight problems and make them matter to other people:

1. Quantify the Impact – In any setting… whether it is academia, sports, or business, we achieve success and recognition by emphasizing the impact. A student with a high GPA is revered for being intelligent, the sports teams with the best scores will go down in history, and the candidates that can quantify their added value to their companies are much more hireable. With this in mind, we can assume that numbers affect human perceptions, especially when there is a lack of context.

If you were to go up to someone right now and tell them that you lost money, I am certain they would respond with something along the lines of “How much?”

2. Use Visuals – Sometimes, when there are too many words or numbers in one place, people become frustrated trying to interpret what’s in front of them, and your messages become disrupted. Graphs and matrixes are great visual tools that can be used to highlight areas of concern. Visuals are often portrayed with a spectrum of colours from green (indicating good) to red (indicating bad). Some examples of illustration tools are Dashboards/Score Cards and Heat Maps. 

3. Take Initiative – A lot of the time, managers haven’t dealt with said issues because they were unaware or had other priorities to take care of. Instead of leaving it to the next person to figure out, why not just do the dirty work and get it over with? Sometimes, people don’t resolve problems because they claim that it is “above [their] pay grade” which I think is an excuse. Other times, people think that the tasks to resolve said problems are too mundane and do not want to bother undertaking these tasks and wasting their time. At the end of the day, the problem has to be resolved and sometimes you should just suck it up and get it done!

Thanks for reading this semi-rant! Please note that these are my thoughts based on stories that others have told me and my own experiences and general interactions with others. Stay tuned for a blog post that I’m dying to write on That’s Above My Pay Grade.