[Haskell-cafe] the problem of design by negation

Jason Dagit dagit at codersbase.com
Fri May 22 02:04:36 EDT 2009

On Thu, May 21, 2009 at 10:53 PM, Conal Elliott <conal at conal.net> wrote:

> <advice>
> One thing you may try is to ask the architect for evidence and/or logical
> proof of his claims that something cannot work.  As much as you can, ask
> from a place of curiosity and even awe.  After all, existence can often be
> proved by demonstrating an example, while non-existence proofs tend to be
> much more profound.  And stick to your open-minded disbelief until you
> really see evidence or logical rigor.  If the architect gets flustered and
> embarrassed, he may well go on the attack.  After all, bravado signals weak
> ego, which can quickly become a cornered animal.  So pay attention to his
> stress level, and help his salvage his ego, by suggesting he let you know
> more about the evidence and/or logic when he's worked it out.  Be careful to
> stay in your integrity, neither going along with someone's forcefulness, nor
> representing yourself as having more grounds for confidence than you really
> do.
> </advice>

Thanks Conal for that sagely advice.

I recently asked my local conversation expert how to deal with passive
aggressive people/managers, and he gave similar advice.  He said that
when someone is dragging their feet or providing excuses, change the
conversation into one about problem solving.  Instead of continuing to
make the request, ask what it would take for the request to be
possible.  I think your advice is exactly that, just in a slightly
different context.

Also, in the times when the speaker understands the problem better
than myself, I tend to learn something new about the problem domain
that, whether it is a show stopper or not, is a significant issue to


More information about the Haskell-Cafe mailing list