‘Good advice’ is everywhere…

Most people would probably listen then weigh up if the advice had anything to offer to them or their situation.

But do we have a desire to hold onto problems and get satisfaction from other peoples’ sympathy?

Or is it simply ‘sunk cost bias’ – the idea that if time and effort have been invested then it’s not good to simply disregard that investment and do something else?

These questions may seem like abstract philosophy but they are useful for developers to consider.  Think about the users you code for and/or support.  Sometimes what an individual appears to want isn’t what they really want.  Context and subtext are important to know in order to gain a deeper understanding of what is desired, why, and how it can be achieved.  This is essential in accurately ascertaining user requirements.

Additionally, why might a user or group of users not adopt your ‘good advice’ or solution to their problem?

  1. Being objective from a distance is easier than being objective in the middle of everything.
  2. Some individuals care deeply about, or believe there are consequences in, making a good impression on others, i.e. showing knowledge and competence.  They feel taking advice diminishes that status.  How you present your argument or solution, a collaborative environment and/or a group meeting may help.
  3. How an individual feels on a given day and/or their circumstances generally may greatly affect whether they view advice as from helpful friends or suspicious foes.  Bear this in mind if your contact is right up against it with a strict deadline!
  4. Is your contact invested in what you’re providing?  If not, they may not respond to requests for testing, spending their time in meetings, etc.  Is there a person in the group/department/wider organisation more connected to the aspects you’re working on who would have more time and/or more focus?
  5. Conversely, anxiety may make an individual more prone to listen to advice and/or likely to take that advice – even if it is bad.  It lowers self-confidence which can cause an individual to discount their own judgment.  Don’t be too absolute that you’re right.  Be open to having missed something and that your advice or solution may not be perfect – the user may have useful points to contribute.  Also, your contact may say “yes” immediately then nothing happens because they just wanted to escape the immediate situation!
Development isn’t just about code.  Foster trust by your actions: honesty, integrity, delivering on time and caring about the aspects of the project that your contact cares about in terms of results.  You won’t go far wrong  🙂