The Fundamental Reason ‘People’ Problems Are Difficult To Solve


People problems become complex because different people view the same situation differently

I got this insight from Adam Kahane’s book: Solving Tough Problems. Pick up any people problem in the world, and you will see this common pattern:

  • Builder vs. Residents: Problems often crop up between builders and residents. If you try to dig deeper into the situation, you will realize that each side holds a different view on the same situation. Each side believes that the view it holds represents the reality.
  • A fighting couple: The Husband holds one perspective on their situation, while the wife holds an opposite one.
  • Indian government vs. Naxalites: Indian government seems totally clear that it is justified in its position. While, the naxalities are totally clear that they are justified in their position.
  • Western world vs. Muslims: American and Europeans think that their view of life is the right one. Whereas, the Muslims think that their view is the right one.

So, while the reality remains the same for all these dis-agreeing groups, their perspectives are quite the opposite.

Such people problems can only be solved peacefully by enabling people to see each others’ perspectives.

If and only if people appreciate each others’ perspectives, can such problems be solved peacefully. But, I have made a lot of observations to believe that people do not do this.

But, why?

There seem to be 3 basic reasons:

  • Awareness: Often, people are not even aware that there can be different perspectives to the same situation! For example, when I was a kid I used to believe that Pakistanis are all bad people. It did not even occur to me that there could be an opposite perspective too!
  • Openness: Often, people are aware that there are different perspectives, but they lack the openness to explore different perspectives. They just look at the other person’s position, but are not willing to explore the context/reasons behind that position. They either do not have the time or mental bandwidth to do so.
  • Maturity: Often, people are aware that there are different perspectives, they also have the will to explore different perspectives, but they lack the maturity needed to be able to appreciate different perspectives. For example, until a long time I did not have the maturity to appreciate why a divorce may sometimes be advisable in a bad relationship.


People problems become hard to solve because different people view the same situation differently. The only method to solve such problems peacefully is to enable people to see each other person’s perspective. This is not easy though, as it requires awareness, openness, and maturity.

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