Sunday, June 6, 2010

Buck Woody: Seek first to understand, then to be understood

Worth remembering - From Buck Woody's blog

One of the most important (and most difficult) lessons for a technical professional to learn is to not jump to the solution. Perhaps you’ve done this, or had it happen to you. As the person you’re “listening” to is speaking, your mind is performing a B-Tree lookup on possible solutions, and when the final node of the B-Tree in your mind is reached, you blurt out the “only” solution there is to the problem, whether they are done or not.

There are two issues here – both of them fatal if you don’t factor them in. First, your B-Tree may not be complete, or correct. That of course leads to an incorrect response, which blows your credibility. People will not trust you if this happens often.

The second danger is that the person may modify their entire problem with a single word or phrase. I once had a client explain a detailed problem to me – and I just KNEW the answer. Then they said at the end “well, that’s what it used to do, anyway. Now it doesn’t do that anymore.” Which of course negated my entire solution – happily I had kept my mouth shut until they finished.

So practice listening, rather than waiting for your turn to speak. Let the person finish, let them get the concept out, give them your full attention. They’ll appreciate the courtesy, you’ll look more intelligent, and you both may find the right answer to the problem.