How to Avoid the One Size Fits All Solution Fail

Traveling with my parents wasn’t like when I was a teen; Mom and Dad guiding us through our day. This time, my dad was in conferences all day, and my mom and I were left to entertain ourselves, and it was my turn to take the lead. The challenge was she broke her hip only weeks before her visit so while she was mobile, it was limited. Melbourne Australia is a wonderful city for the arts, food, and shopping, all of which is a challenge when you’re in recovery and walking with a cane. Instead of googling, “What to do in Melbourne without walking,” I went to the front desk of our hotel after breakfast to ask for a recommendation. “Hi. What’s the best movie theater in Melbourne? My mom is recovering from a broken hip and can only walk a little at a time with her cane, so I think the movies could be a good bet for us today.” The woman smiled and proceeded to tell me about her favorite old cinema that plays art house films. It’s so great, she emphasized, because even the seats are from the 1930s. I knew from past experience this theatre mostly had showings at night. It was a no-go. Besides, I thought a modern theatre with cushy seats may be better for my mom’s hip than sitting in this one after a 30 minute Uber ride. “That sounds amazing,” I said. “However, given her hip, and that we want to see a movie during the day, where else would you send us? Maybe in the CBD?” That’s when she hopped on her computer and gave me the address of another cinema. That one I knew for sure, it was in the middle of a large mall. Kudos to her for hearing my modern cinema request, but boo that she did not consider that my mom could not schlep through the mall to get there. “That one’s tough,” I told her. “My mom would have to do too much walking to get there.” That’s when the woman at the hotel desk went back to her original suggestion, spelling the name for me, and even writing it down. No surprise, we decided to bag the movies. I also chose not to return to the desk for more advice while she was working for the rest of our stay.

When One Size Fits All Solutions Don’t Fit

The woman at the desk heard that part of my request that she was comfortable fulfilling: Movies. Suggestion one didn’t hit the spot? On to suggestion number two. Oh? That won’t work? Back to suggestion one. It’s one thing if you’re talking about solving a computer problem. Control-Alt-Delete fixes most ails. In life, when dealing with people, we are not one size. Our needs are unique, and while we have go-to solutions, we also need to know when to adjust, reflect, and diverge from our go-to. When dealing with people, there is no one size fits all solution. We do it with our team members, clients, our children, and our partners: We rely on the default. I hear these all the time from clients and friends alike:
  • I have no idea how to deal with my daughter. With my son, it was so easy, but none of the same things work. 
  • What am I supposed to do with this client who keeps asking for something else? 
  • Twice now, I’ve explained how to do it. Why does John keep coming back to me for clarification?
  • We’ve never had a situation exactly like this. I guess this policy applies. 
One size fits all, or even one size fits most, is a fallacy. It may fit, but it doesn’t mean it fits well. The problem is, when the default is a mismatch, we struggle in our relationship. Trust erodes, and doubt takes over. Ever see a shirt or a dress that’s one size, and on you, you’re either swimming in it or wish that it had a few more inches? The label says “one size,” but it should read “some size.” It will fit some of us and not others. What if you thought like a tailor instead of someone who sells off the rack? This looks good on you, but here’s how we can make it ideal…

How to Break Free from Staple Solutions?

Be PROACTIVE to break the frame of old patterns and stop the temptation to always rely on a one size fits all approach.
  1. Pause before you speak
  2. Resist your default
  3. Open with clarifying questions before solutions
  4. Ask more questions after you share your initial thoughts: Does this work for you?  Does it meet your needs? What’s missing?
  5. Consider what makes this person/situation/business unique
  6. Tame your temptation for the tried and true
  7. Improve your initial recommendations / directives / advice
  8. Validate how it landed
  9. Empower them to come back to you if their needs change
Choose to be proactive, individualized, and someone who people trust and turn to again and again. Drop one size fits all, or even most, for a commitment to a solution that just fits. Related: How To Think On Your Feet When Under Pressure