DEV Community


Discussion on: 3 Things You Can Do to Improve as a Developer

walkingriver profile image
Michael D. Callaghan

Do you have any advice on how to ask "why" in a way that avoids the other person feeling as though you're challenging them in a negative way? Some people react negatively to a "why" question, especially when they may never have considered why they are doing something.

john_papa profile image
John Papa Author • Edited

This is a GREAT question, Michael!

You're right that the way we ask is just as important, if not more important, than what we ask. Nobody wants to feel threatened or having to defend a position on the spot.

Maybe I'll write a post on this, but here are some short techniques I use:

  1. ask "Yes and" instead of why. This affirms the point as being good instead of moving right to the question

    Yes, and I wonder how we can help the user know what to do next on that screen?

  2. ask "how" instead of why. We just did this above, too ... asking "how" offers a thought provoking way of thinking through the scenario.

  3. Thank the person for sharing their insight or solution to a problem before asking for more detail. This is just respectful and if you do it sincerely, it helps people open up and reduce the chance of making them feel defensive.

    Thank you for thinking this through so extensively and sharing it with us. I love the direction and I have a few questions.

  4. Take your time to appreciate the other person's point of view, listen, and be aware of body language.

  5. Most importantly - be sincere about wanting to know more and help.