Hi, I am Bruno Paulino.
Software is my craft.

Taming ambiguity

February 13, 2021

The more senior you get at your job, the more comfortable you have to get with ambiguity.

We, engineers, have this drive to find binary answers quickly. Is either "yes, we can do it" or "No, that doesn't work". But we forget that most of the time we are not talking to machines, but with people. This is where binary answers sometimes must be replaced with a spectrum.

To cope with ambiguity, which is a fundamental part of working with people, you probably end up saying "it depends..." more frequently. While you are considering several variables on your head before reaching to an answer, this usually signals that you didn’t frame the problem well enough yet and it doesn’t make it clear to the other person on what you are considering to find the right answer.

One strategy that has been working well for me is to replace "it depends" with "tell me more...". It will implicitly send a more positive message that you are truly interested in learning more about the topic in order to help, which will lead to a more clarifying and perhaps engaging conversation.