Are You Treating the Cause—or the Symptom?

How many times have you heard colleagues, friends, or family say, (or in the case of teenagers, yell,) “It’s not fair”?

Alternatively, how often have you gotten the cold shoulder from colleagues, friends, or family who nonetheless insist that everything is “Fine”?

I’m guessing more than once.

In both cases, it’s tempting to look at—and treat—the ‘symptoms’ the person is presenting. In the first example, sending the teenager to their room for yelling; in the second, walking away from a colleague’s glassy stare.

And, in both cases, treating the symptom will not alleviate the problem.

So, what can you do?

Put on your non-violent communication Dr.’s coat, my friend!

As some of you may remember, I have written about non-violent communication in the past.

In a nutshell (and I highly recommend checking out the NVC website for more information) the idea is to look underneath the words being used—or not used, as the case may be—to the need that is going unmet.

So if we stay with our angry teenager, while their ‘symptom’ may be yelling “It’s not fair!” their need may be inclusion in their friend group, coupled with fear of being abandoned by those friends if they can’t go to the party.

If we inquire into our colleagues’ “Fine,” a host of needs might present themselves: a need for you to get your tuna fish sandwich wrapper out of the shared garbage, a need for you to say, “Fantastic work today!” a need for the same flextime you enjoy.

So if you’re interested in pursuing your medical degree (without all that pesky medical school) start looking beyond the symptoms presented to what might be causing those symptoms.

I guarantee the situation will heal itself more quickly.


Interested in learning more about how to get to the core of what’s really going on? Take a look at, “The Cure for Complaining: Turn Your Complaints and Others into Coping, Calm, or Conquest”