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comment by user-inactivated
user-inactivated  ·  2030 days ago  ·  link  ·    ·  parent  ·  post: An open letter to privileged people who play devil’s advocate

> The soundness of an argument, in my world, isn't the only important thing. In my world - which I admit has its limitations - the sincerity of the other person and my trust in that other person are also important.

Not knowing what 'your world' is, I can only make generic observations here.

The point you're making is absolutely a valid one. I'm a freelance software developer, which means my social interactions run a very large gamut of experiences. One the one hand, I'm very much a technical person, on the other, I deal with a lot of business/management types, and the way they view the world is vastly different (with good reason).

I came across an observation once years ago that really solidified in words things I had started to implicitly understand. That observation went something like this:

A business leader can walk into a meeting and sway the entire direction of the meeting through the sheer force of his personality. But a developer, no matter how they try, cannot fix that bug in the software through personality alone.

This difference often times causes a vast disconnect when the worlds meet. Obviously these are two extremes. Developers do exist in social contexts, and business leaders need to understand reality, but the needs are very different and what they value is different as a result.

It is not merely about the person wanting to be a dick, it's about what that person values. If they're a more technical person, they're going to value trying to find problems because if they don't, it means a bridge that collapses with people on it, or a 2am phone call because some server went belly up (I'm being hyperbolic here to make a point).

BUT At the end of the day, regardless of what the person values, if they did actually poke holes in your argument, you yourself should be self-reflective enough to be able to examine why that is. Perhaps it's the context, and perhaps it's because you're wrong.

After all, that developer still needs to understand soft skills such as social awareness, and that business leader still needs to be able to navigate reality correctly.





lil  ·  2029 days ago  ·  link  ·  

I can see how there might be situations where "let me play devil's advocate" is an important tool to ensure that there are no surprises, where scientists pop the fantasy bubbles of other scientists and insist that they speculate about different outcomes

Take perhaps the example of the Challenger exploding:

Roger Boisjoly: Let me play devil's advocate. What if the cold weather causes the seal on the O-rings to fail?

Actually Roger did warn them, but no one listened. Was it a lack of trust or an overwhelming desire to not delay the project any further?

Making decisions about other people's life-or-death situations should require questioning all aspects of a project. I have no objection to that. It just seems that the phrase "let me play ..." makes the process seem less sincere.

Instead of bringing up the an argument that way, I'd begin, "I'm wondering whether you considered this."

I'm being idiosyncratic here. The phrase irritates me and I find it is often used to not really listen to the other person. Instead of arguing the opposite of what someone offers, first make sure you have really listened to them and understand them before challenging it.

Other phrases irritate me. One is this: "With all due respect" - it seems to really mean, "I think you're an idiot."

But that's a topic for another day.

    BUT At the end of the day, regardless of what the person values, if they did actually poke holes in your argument, you yourself should be self-reflective enough to be able to examine why that is. Perhaps it's the context, and perhaps it's because you're wrong.
I agree.

Thanks for your thoughtful reply and explanation.