Somewhere, sometime, someone will do something wrong. It happens more often than you think. (That person might even be me.)
When they do, I have an innate desire to correct them, to show them the benefit of my mistakes and to enlighten them. This is, in itself, wrong.
What should I do instead? A couple of things.
- Make sure I really understand the issue they are facing. Sometimes I can gain an appreciation for their choice once I have more information about the situation, and sometimes my questioning can cause them to make different decisions or to revise their thinking.
- Think about whether I have all the context. (This one’s easy; I don’t.) So remember to consider that from their perspective choices make more sense than from mine.
- I consider the ramifications of a poor decision. It’s better to let someone choose an obviously wrong course when the stakes are low. We’ve all made mistakes (I deleted an entire table from a production database!) and that’s the best way to learn. However, if the stakes are high, that means a discussion is more warrented.
- Contemplate my role. Is this a peer? An old friend? An ex-colleague? A mentor? A mentee? Someone I’ve just met? Each of these types of people have different tolerance for my opinion.
In short, rather than just explaining to someone why they are wrong, I need to stop and think about the entire context of the situation, including what I’ve missed, what the consequences of the action are, and my role.