Life Lessons from Programming: Check your assumptions

Jon Udell wrote a short piece that resonated with me on taking a principle from software engineering and applying it to discourse and relationships: “Check your assumptions”.

He takes the idea that when debugging, you should:

Focus on understanding why the program is doing what it’s doing, rather than why it’s not doing what you wanted it to.

And translating that to:

Focus on understanding why your spouse or child or friend or political adversary is doing what he or she is doing, rather than why he or she is not doing what you wanted him or her to.

That flips your behavior from one that is trying to modify someone else’s behavior to someone that is listening actively.

Pretty profound.

What other examples of this to think about?

2 responses

  1. Yeah, that’s great- except for the fact that I WANT to modify the behavior of my political adversaries. There are many issues where “Hmm, I don’t necessarily agree with you, but I can see where you are coming from” is NOT helpful. Reproductive rights, economic justice, GLTB rights, women’s rights- all of these I can’t just go “Well, I can respect that you believe that your marriage will be diminished if homosexual people are allowed to marry.”

    Normal interpersonal actions? That’s good advice. But when it comes to values, it’s not that people aren’t listening- it’s we don’t like what the other person has to say.

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