🏡🌞 A personal, friendly blog about my journey as a C#/.NET Software Engineer

🌼 Asking Trivial Questions

Often I do not ask a question because I think the question might be too trivial.

But if you think about it, it turns out that even if your questions are trivial: they are a great opportunity to align in a conversation and synchronize. This avoids misunderstandings and ensures that all parties of the conversation share the same vision. Think of it as assertions in code. As you go along writing your code, you can occasionally make assertions about the current situation. I came across this thought after reading the chapter “Coincidental Programming” in the book “The Pragmatic Programmer” by Andy Hunt and Dave Thomas. Without testing for ourselves what we are working with, how would we ever know that we are “on the same page”? We can do this in conversations, too!

Trivial questions can be a great way to “unit-test your conversation”. Especially in group discussions, this “on-track-keeping” feature of trivial questions is valuable. This is because trivial questions offer an elegant re-entry opportunity for the listener, who had potentially lost concentration.
Often I find myself as a guest listener in a group discussion and do not want or are unable to interrupt the flow of conversation of the discussion leaders: As a result, we only become more and more disconnected from the flow of the conversation, and it becomes increasingly difficult to find the thread again.
At least I have often felt this way. In such a case, it’s a wonderful service if one of the conversation participants throws out such honorable hooks from time to time.

A small example

Let’s say that you’re in a mob-programming session on a project with a team of developers, and you’re in the role of the observer. As you’re looking at the code, you notice that there’s a method name that you don’t quite understand. Rather than assuming that you know what the method represents or ignoring it altogether, you could ask your colleague a trivial question like, “Hey, could you tell me a little more about what this method does?” This question might seem trivial, but it can actually help you to better understand the code and ensure that everyone is on the same page about what the method is for.

By asking this trivial question, you’re not only improving your own understanding, but you’re also promoting open and clear communication with your colleague.
Additionally, asking trivial questions like this can help to catch potential errors or oversights early on in the development process before they become bigger problems down the line. Often, this also uncovers misunderstandings which are followed up with great moments of insight, which in turn produce a nice feeling of flow.





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