If you’ve ever been on a job interview, you’ve probably been asked this question: Are you a natural problem solver?
This is quite a common question because let’s face it – we all want natural problem solvers on our team!
But what exactly does it mean to be one?
Does it mean you’re born with a talent for finding solutions to problems? Does it mean you feel a sense of satisfaction when you help others overcome obstacles?
Let’s do away with the guesswork. In this article, I’ll show you ten signs you’ve got those natural problem-solving skills that everyone wants to have!
1) You are curious
When I hear the words “natural problem solver,” I immediately think of famous people like Elon Musk, Bill Gates, and Steve Jobs.
Do you know why? Because those guys got to be the innovative people they are because they’ve got an insatiable desire to understand how things work.
When you were a child, you probably went through your own period of taking apart things just to see how they work. Or a period of asking never-ending questions, a habit that you still have to this day.
You see, natural problem solvers like you are inherently curious people. Your curiosity is what drives you to find solutions and identify opportunities for improvement.
2) You are persistent
Remember when I said never-ending questions? That attitude of persistence is present not just when you’re looking for information, but also when it comes to challenges.
You don’t know the meaning of “quit.” When faced with a challenge, you don’t give up easily. You’re perfectly willing to put in the time and effort to overcome obstacles and achieve your goals.
This is why employers love hiring natural problem solvers. After all, when the going gets tough, they want people who won’t sit back and say, “I’m sorry, I’ve done all I can.”
No, they want someone with mental resilience, someone who’ll get into the ring with them and go on fighting it out till they find a solution!
As Albert Einstein once said, “It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.”
3) You are analytical
Do you remember those old games and toys we used to play with as kids? There’s a whole range of them designed to develop analytical thinking – Rubik’s cube, checkers, Scrabble, puzzles, and my personal favorite – Clue!
If you enjoyed those toys and games, chances are, you’re a natural problem solver!
You see, those games involve breaking down complex problems into smaller, more manageable pieces.
And that’s something you’re innately good at. You have a natural talent for spotting patterns, relationships, and connections between different pieces of information.
4) You are creative
Aside from an analytical bent, problem-solving also requires thinking outside the box and coming up with innovative ideas.
When faced with a problem, most people tend to rely on past experiences and familiar approaches to attack it. That’s totally fine, but it can lead to a narrow-minded approach that doesn’t always lead to the best outcome.
But natural problem solvers have a secret power: creativity.
This allows you to explore new ideas and possibilities. And boy, the solutions you come up with are certainly fresh and novel!
My husband is one such person. I’ve seen him come up with strange yet effective ways to solve a problem.
For instance, we once went camping, but we’d forgotten an important item – our frying pan.
But we did manage to bring a roll of aluminum foil. So, he took a forked branch, wrapped it with foil…and voila! We had a makeshift pan! Genius!
5) You are willing to take risks
Speaking of creativity brings me to my next point – taking risks.
As a natural problem solver, you’ve got a strong stomach for risks. After all, isn’t that what creativity and problem-solving are all about? You’ve got to be willing to experiment and see what works.
In fact, you thrive on challenges. You enjoy tackling difficult problems and finding solutions that others might think are impossible.
And if they don’t work, you simply move on to the next best idea!
6) You are adaptable
As you probably know, problems rarely have a one-size-fits-all solution.
But that’s not an issue for you because you can easily adjust your approach to meet the challenge!
When it comes to problem-solving, things may not always go as planned. So, you need to stay calm and think clearly instead of getting stuck and overwhelmed.
Many people find themselves too attached to a particular approach, never mind if it’s not really working.
The result? They just get frustrated, and the problem remains unsolved.
I’ll give you an example: Back when I was still teaching young children, I had a student who just wouldn’t stop talking in class, no matter how many warnings I’d given him. It dawned on me that with this child, the threat of being sent out of the classroom just wasn’t scary.
So I changed tactics – I sat down with him and asked how he felt about signing a contract with me. For every hour that he could stay quiet and listen while I speak, I’d give him 5 minutes to express himself freely.
Believe it or not, that tactic worked! Apparently, positive reinforcement works better with him.
See, it’s true what they say: If you keep doing what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.
That’s why we have to know how to adapt and troubleshoot!
7) You are a good listener
Here’s another thing that marks you as a natural problem solver – you know how to listen.
That’s because effective problem-solving requires understanding the perspectives of others.
So, even if you’ve got your own ideas, you take the time to listen to other people’s concerns and ideas.
That way, you get a deeper understanding of the problem, and you can identify potential roadblocks you may not have considered on your own. You may even hear new and innovative ideas that can help you solve the problem in unexpected ways.
Then, you use that information to develop solutions that address everyone’s needs.
8) You are empathetic
Knowing how to listen also underscores one other thing – you’re an empathetic person.
Because you’re willing to listen to others’ concerns, you’re able to put yourself in their shoes. This helps you communicate more effectively and find common ground that may lead to better outcomes.
This particular trait makes me think of Oprah Winfrey, who’s known for her empathetic nature and excellent communication skills.
Of course, this side of hers came in handy for making good TV. But unknown to many, it also actually enabled her to identify and approach problems in a more compassionate way.
A shining testament to that is the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa, which provides education and leadership opportunities to young women from disadvantaged backgrounds.
9) You are patient
What’s a natural offshoot of being empathetic? You’re patient, too!
Here’s the deal: finding solutions to complex problems can take time. Think back to those childhood toys – those Rubik’s cubes and puzzles didn’t take just a minute to solve, right?
Real-life problems take even longer. With so many possible obstacles to hurdle, problem-solving isn’t for the fainthearted.
You’ve got to be willing to invest the time and effort needed to find the best possible solution.
10) You are proactive
Ah, proactive – there’s a term you’ll often find in self-help and business settings. It’s practically become a buzzword.
But there’s a reason for that – being proactive is invaluable, especially for problem-solving.
For expert fixers like you, it’s almost second nature to get ahead of a potential issue. So, you don’t wait for problems to arise before taking action.
From the get-go, you already take steps to prevent problems from occurring in the first place.
One example I can think of is customer service. One of my favorite online stores excels at this, simply because they take a proactive approach to customer service.
Instead of having customers like me wait forever for a reply to an inquiry, they have pre-programmed responses so we can get our answers quickly.
That’s a way of getting ahead of the problem – you can foresee any potential issues down the road, and you find a way to get them resolved before they even happen!
And there you have it – ten signs you’re a natural problem solver!
If you see these in yourself, then congratulations! You are a natural problem solver. This valuable skill can benefit you in your personal and professional life, as well as in your community.
And if you’re not there yet, don’t worry! The good news is, problem-solving is something that you can absolutely develop.
By practicing critical thinking, staying curious, and being proactive, you can become a more effective problem solver.