Despacio, por favor.
(day-SPAH-syoh pohr fah-BOHR)
This isn't a fool-proof method, by any means. You could still very well be up the creek without a paddle. But at least now you are mentally prepared to hear words in Spanish - and if they are spoken slowly, there is a chance you can make something out.
Here we regroup (deep breath, don't panic - you are doing great!) and revisit Step 3, with a slight modification.
Here we ask, "¿Solución - Sí o no?"
What you are doing here is saying, "Hey man, let's keep this simple…. Do you have a solution? Yes or no?" If he says, "Sí," well then, victory is yours!
If he says anything other than this, gather as much info as you can, document the details of the situation and continue on with your day. This won't be the only problema you need to revisit later on.
So that's it! A simple 3.25-Step guide to problem-solving en Español.
But remember the foundations of communication - don't assume anyone does or doesn't speak the same language you do. Thinking this way may have you acting like the foundation we discussed - your thinking, like the foundation, will be backwards.