Monday, January 24, 2011

Becoming a Better Listener

Today I received my first downvote on StackOverflow (a programmer question and answer site).  This means the downvoter said my answer sucked.  Fortunately they left a comment explaining why.  Immediately I thought "Hey! I'm right!" My answer is technically correct.  I think?.  I read the other two provided responses and noticed they both referenced a 50x50 Green square.  Mine did not.  Then I read the question again.  Oh, they want a green 50x50 square.  I didn't realize that!

I answered the question in as little time as possible without making a good attempt at understanding what they were trying to do.  I don't even know if my code really solves their problem because I copy and pasted code from my blog and put a warning on my answer "this worked two and a half years ago."  I told myself it was OK though because I put a smiley face at the end of the sentence to feel better about submitting an untested answer.

What happened after that?  Two people took time out of their day to improve the formatting and clarity of my answer and then a third person took time out to tell me why my answer wasn't good.  My answer did not provide value to the community.  Better answerers came along and posted more concise answers that directly solved the problem.  I had wasted community member's time.  I deleted my answer.

In the real world I do the same thing.  When people talk often times I have a response ready before they are done talking.  When someone criticizes me I often interrupt stating why I am right.  Listening is key to communication and learning.  I am working on being a better listener, and if you catch me not listening, help me out :)

1 comment:

Mickie said...

Dave, this is a great commentary. It is said that God gave us two ears and one mouth...so we should listen twice as much as we talk. Plus, one learns a lot from listening. I am quite guilty of not listening as much as talking...cuz I enjoy talking :) You, my friend, have been a great listener, especially in our "tech" conversations. I'm glad you blogged about listening and it's helpful to be reminded of this relatively easy "form" of communication. Keep up your good work! I'm always listening!