Most people have felt frustration when other people cannot see the obvious. I know that it has happened to me many times. It took me a long time to see the obvious. Just because something is obvious to you, doesn’t mean it is obvious to others.
Why Don’t People See What You See
“It is a natural human mistake, to assume that others are like yourself.” – David Brin
There are many reasons why people cannot see what is obvious to you. Some people are smarter and others are dumber. Some know things you don’t and some don’t know things you know. What is important to them may not be important to you. No one reason explains every situation.
Maybe You Are Wrong
Before you start to dismiss the opinions of others, it is wise to consider if you are wrong. When others don’t see things your way, maybe it is you and not them that doesn’t see the obvious. Not many people like to admit they are wrong, but everyone is wrong sometimes. Many of the great breakthroughs in science came when people questioned what they believed.
Some Things Are Just Not Obvious
Many years ago, I heard a story about a physics professor who was explaining a complicated theory to his class. At one point he used the phase “It is obvious that. . .”. He stopped and gazed at what he had written on the blackboard for a while. Then he opened up a textbook and read a few pages. Next, he took out a pad of paper and did some calculations. After some further thought, he excused himself from the class and went back to his office. Returning to the class a short time later, he announced, “Yes, it is obvious that . . .”
It takes time and effort to understand complicated issues. Something may be obvious to you because you have put in that time and effort. Not everyone has the time or drive to study an issue long enough for it to become obvious to them.
People Don’t Want to See
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!” – Upton Sinclair
People by nature don’t like change. When confronted with an inconvenient fact, it is easier to reject the obvious rather than act upon it. The desire to “shoot the messenger” has been with us a long time. People will go to great lengths to avoid the obvious.
Just Because Something Is True Doesn’t Make It Obvious
The truth is not always obvious. We know now that the Earth circles around the sun. Today few people question this. However, for millennia, no one, including the wisest and most educated people of the day, believed this. It is only in hindsight that this seems obvious to us.
History has many similar tales of people not seeing the reality. Knowing that this was common in the past, what truths are we missing today because they are not obvious to us?
The Challenge of Making Things Obvious
When an idea is obvious to you, it can be very difficult to explain it to others. If you just say, “It’s obvious”, people will feel you think they are stupid. That will convince few people.
Before people are ready to accept what you say, you may need to provide far more information than they may be willing to take in. If you try to save time by skipping the details, you run the risk that they will discount what you say.
I’ve long felt that if I am correct, eventually people will come to accept my view. If I am wrong, it is better if they don’t. While we may be eager to move forward on an idea, we may need to be patient and wait for people to come around to the same view. This is often difficult to do. Life would be so much easier if complex ideas were easier to understand.