Experiencing Technical Difficulties (resonant) wrote,
Experiencing Technical Difficulties
resonant

Tell smart people how they are correct, not how they are wrong.

I have learned the hard way that you should never tell smart people that they are wrong. Smart people hate being wrong. Instead, tell people how they are correct, and then ask them if a slightly different way would make them even more correct. If they are absolutely not correct, find some convoluted way that they could possibly be correct - misinterpret their meaning, if necessary - and then ask if a different way would be more correct.

Example A:

Smart Engineer: We can quickly heat up the metal walls of this empty chemical container by pouring a small amount of boiling water into it, and then stirring it around.
Me (wrong way): That's stupid and wrong. Stirring won't make a difference, the boiling water won't get any hotter by mixing it.
Smart Engineer: You're stupid and wrong. Stirring will make the hot water move more quickly against the walls of the chemical vessel, increasing the rate of heat transfer and warming it more quickly.
Me (wrong way): You're so stupid and wrong. We'd have to pay a person to stir it, and that would cost us more than waiting a few more minutes for the container to warm up.
Smart Engineer: You're so stupid and wrong, I hate you.
Me (wrong way): I pee on you and your relatives from a great height.
Smart Engineer: I am going to stuff your desk with squirrels this weekend.

Result: Two engineers mad at each other, and no agreement.

Example B:

Smart Engineer: We can quickly heat up the metal walls of this empty chemical container by pouring a small amount of boiling water into it, and then stirring it around.
Me (better way): You are correct, using hot water would be less complicated than trying to add an electric heating element. Would stirring the water make much of a difference?
Smart Engineer: You are a stupid fool. Stirring will make the hot water move more quickly against the walls of the chemical vessel, increasing the rate of heat transfer and warming it more quickly.
Me (better way): You are correct, that would be faster. Would the time savings justify the labour cost involved in stirring, or can we accept a slower heating speed?
Smart Engineer: You are dumb, but I like you anyway. We could increase the speed of the pump for no cost, which would let us live with a slower heating speed, and save money. I am glad that I thought of that.

Result: Two engineers are friends, with a process that works at lower cost.

Example C:

Smart Engineer: We can quickly heat up the metal walls of this empty chemical container by stuffing squirrels into it, and then stirring them around.
Me (better way): You are correct, using squirrels would be ... environmentally friendly? Is there something equally environmentally friendly that would shed less fur?
Smart Engineer: You are a stupid fool. We would shave the squirrels first, of course.
Me (better way): You are correct, that would shed less fur. Now, like most animals, squirrels are something like 80% water. What if we put hot water into the container, instead of hot angry squirrels?
Smart Engineer: You are dumb, but I like you anyway. I am glad that I thought of that.

Result: Two engineers are friends, with a process that works that does not require squirrel shaving.
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