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Stress Management for Living, Teaching, & Parenting

Stop Problem Solving for Others

Cartoon image of a man at work with a monkey on his back

The more problem solving you do for others, the more stress you’ll feel. When you stop focusing on solving everyone else’s problems, you’ll feel happier and more productive.

You may know the term “monkey on your back,” which refers to some problem or challenge that needs to be addressed. But what happens when someone want to hand you their monkey?

This tip is about what to do when someone wants to unload their monkey on you.

When we do things for people that they can do for themselves, we deprive them of the opportunity to learn, grow, and become more self-sufficient.

Here is a technique I used as an elementary, middle, and high school principal and as a district director of education when someone came to my office and wanted to unload a monkey.

Problem Solving 101

When my office was large enough to hold a table as well as my desk, I immediately welcomed the person and offered a seat at the table. This immediately removed any feelings of my being in an authority position.

I listened, and if the conversation was about a problem that I thought the person could handle, I immediately envisioned a monkey sitting on the person’s shoulder. My intent was to be sure that when the person left, the monkey left, too.

In the conversation, I asked reflective questions and offered suggestions so the person became convinced that handling the challenge without my help would be more effective than if I handled the challenge.

In the back of my mind was my philosophy that, if I handled a problem that the person could handle himself, I would be depriving the person of an opportunity and the satisfaction that comes with success.

Tip: When a person wants to give you a monkey, decline the offer.

You can get many more empowering tips like this one in my award-winning book, Live Without Stress: How to Enjoy the Journey. Buy one and get one free as a gift. You will not want to depart with your own copy. Be sure to check out the Without Stress Facebook Group where you can connect with other life-minded people on a journey to reduce stress.

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Dr. Marvin Marshall
Phone: 714.220.1882
PO Box 11 Los Alamitos, CA 90720
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