Sunday, November 30, 2008


A common mistake I frequently repeat...

Criticism should be kept as narrow as possible. Point out the problems and only the problems. Don't expand them into wide judgments...

Example 1:

* Wrong: "You are a big fat idiot!"

* Right: "I disagree with your opinion about foo-oriented programming."

Example 2:

* Wrong: "You don't seem to understand any of this."

* Right: "I suggest we review your responses to items F, C, and K. Your answers puzzle me."

Example 3:

* Wrong: "You are lying. Dr. Gartner never said that."

* Right: "Your quote appears to be incorrect. Here's the correct passage according to page 742 of ..."

If the person wants your opinion about their general understanding or general competence, let them ask first. Otherwise, don't volunteer it. If a person is frustrating you for whatever reason, leave the discussion before you are tempted to express wider opinions about given person. When in doubt, say nothing.

Our primal cave-men urges to lash out in frustration or chest thumping is harmful to civilized discussion. Yes, it's hard to resist the urge, but something we must do if harmony is a goal. Lashing out will likely not change the other party to fit your desires anyhow. Harsh or blunt criticism rarely solves anything. The other party probably has some harsh opinions of you also that they are holding back. Unleashing yours will either alienate the other party, or result in them releasing counter criticism...

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