|Don't ask to ask, just ask|
On Debugging Peopleby dws (Chancellor)
|on Aug 02, 2002 at 21:27 UTC||Need Help??|
Some of the best debugging techniques are those that help us debug our own thinking.
One of my favorites is a simple variant on the standard dictum that you don't really understand a problem unless you've thought of at least three ways to solve it.
Before debugging an anomaly in a black box, think of at least three logical explanations for the behavior you're seeing.The simple act of pausing to think this through can open up one's mind to possibilities that might otherwise be missed in a focused hunt for one particular cause. With multiple explanations in hand, we're in a better position to prepare debugging strategies. The second or third potential cause we think of might suggest a simple debugging approach that can save hours when compared to our initial impulse.
Another beauty of this technique is that it works on people.
People as black boxes? Sure, why not? We can't see others' inner processes, we can only observe some of the input, and some of the output.
The next time you get into an anomalous interaction with another person, before you react according to your first instinct, try this
Assume that what they're saying is true from their experience and perspective. Think of at least three things that might be true to them that would explain what you're observing.When we pause to ask this question, in reality we're debugging your own thinking and biases.
Try this the next time you get into an interaction that confuses you, and see if you don't discover new options. For (safe) practice, try it the next time you run into a weird SoPW post.