[Haskell-cafe] the problem of design by negation

Conal Elliott conal at conal.net
Fri May 22 02:41:36 EDT 2009

> Instead of continuing to
> make the request, ask what it would take for the request to be
> possible.

Thanks, Jason.  I like this shift.  It moves the dynamic away from a tightly
confined yes/no (and often win/lose) to an expansive *how*.  It welcomes
collaboration in finding something better than either yes or no to the
original request, in that both/all parties' needs can be addressed, not just

  - Conal

On Thu, May 21, 2009 at 11:04 PM, Jason Dagit <dagit at codersbase.com> wrote:

> 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
> address.
> Thanks,
> Jason
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