Don't say "don't"
This is something I try to remember when reporting problems and asking for change. As it happens, it is a story of two people named John with a decade in between - thanks John!
Don’t do that
Many years ago, someone told me “don’t do that”, whatever that was. I was left wondering what I should be doing instead, and also somewhat miffed that he had made no effort to help.
Do this instead
At this point I concluded that “please do this instead” is far more helpful. It can come in various flavours.
- reasons why “don’t do that” is important. What’s going to break if you go against the advice?
- a list of possible alternatives and some suggestions for how to choose among them.
- or an apology for not offering alternatives. “Sorry I couldn’t think of a better way to do it” at least shows that I understand what’s missing.
How it can help generate new ideas
After saying “don’t”, I remember I want to say “but do”. I find I can’t, so I say sorry.
Now I’m thinking about solutions, and an idea pops into my head from nowhere! Here’s a bit out of the bottom of the email where it happened
…but I don’t have a better suggestions (sorry), so it looks like […]
Is there any scope for [… new thing which wasn’t there …] ?
This is such a stunningly obviously good idea that I was surprised it doesn’t exist, and have so raised an issue to request it […]
- (for small children) don’t tell them to stop doing something, ask them to put their hands in the air