Easy and difficult

Two kinds of problem:


Those for which you already have language and concepts. The problem itself may be new, but you’re able to say what it reminds you of. And, even if hard to resolve, you have a ready source of metaphors, questions, and practices which you can bring to bear in tackling it.


Confuses you. You’re lost for words and comparisons. There are no obvious practices to address what you’re facing. The world, once clear, is thrown into uncertainty. Perhaps things aren’t as you’ve taken them to be.

Easy problems fit the world as you know it already. They make sense in the particular interpretation of life already familiar to you, your colleagues, and your culture.

But that’s only one interpretation of many.

Difficult problems reveal new worlds.

In our rush-to-results culture we’re prone to tackling all our problems as if they’re easy problems. It makes it possible for us to take action. And it helps us feel safe.

But many problems, particularly ones involving those most mysterious of creatures – other human beings – are at heart difficult, because others’ worlds are at once familiar and vastly different from what we know.

Solving such problems requires giving up our certainty in order to see the world afresh: allowing ourselves to be seriously confused; talking, and listening, and then talking and listening again; staying with the questions long enough that new kinds of answers become available; and allowing ourselves to be changed, rather than having the world and others bend immediately, compliantly, to our will. 

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