Tuesday, February 23, 2010

If you need my opinion don’t ask me to answer with YES or NO

Sometimes people ask me: Why can’t you just answer with yes or no?

While yes/no answers are perfect in some occasions I find that they are the absolute killer of collaborative work. A yes/no answers do not start a discussion they close it. While many developers think that a short yes/no answer makes them look more responsible and valuable I tend to disagree.

What I usually want to understand is: Why do you ask? What is the context of your question? This not only helps with gaining some thinking time, but also gives an opportunity to view the issue at hand from at least two or more angles. Then answering the question takes a bit more time too, since the original question was not specific enough to begin with. Now there is real data to work with and the answer becomes more of a conversation.

When asked a question one should also consider another aspect. The person answering the question often can learn about something that was previously not known, so the conversation becomes balanced and more meaningful for both parties in the collaboration.

So next time you ask me a complex question, respect my opinion, don’t expect a yes/no answer, and If you demand one, my answer might as well be “I don’t know.”

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