Often, when we’re looking for an answer, we “turn up the volume” of our thinking. This might be called active problem solving. We think, think, think—and then we think some more. We get personally involved in the process.
For the most part, when we are actively thinking, we’re thinking about that which we already know, that with which we are familiar. We try to solve a problem at the same level of understanding that initially created it. And often we go around in circles.
Recently I was engaged in an interpersonal conflict with someone I was working with. In my mind, I was blaming him for virtually all of our problems. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I was that the problem was with him. It got so bad that I considered breaking up the friendship, which, to that point, had been very pleasing.
Then another friend of mine suggested I stop thinking about it entirely and postpone making any decisions. He suggested instead that I take it easy and spend some time in quiet reflection. I took his advice.
As I quieted down, it became clear to me that a great deal of our problems were actually coming from me. I could see how I was contributing to our poor communication and had many unrealistic expectations.