Jake Worth

"I Think That..."

Published: January 19, 2022 1 min read

An idea I find useful as an individual contributor is starting my consulting with this phrase: “I think that…“. The idea is to let your arguments stand on their own, rather than appealing to experience.

Having some experience is a conundrum. You know a lot of good and bad ways to do something, but you can’t just download your expertise onto someone else. If you don’t share it wisely, it’s easy to sound pessimistic, preachy, or arrogant.

The antidote I’ve found is to start my opinions with “I think that…“. A few examples:

  • “I think that creating a ‘dev’ branch is too much process for our team size.”
  • “I think that duplication is fine because we don’t yet know the right abstraction.”
  • “I think that this commit distracts from the pull request.”

The reason this works is that you’re forcing yourself to make an argument, rather than retelling old war stories. You’re arguing an for idea instead of saying “you don’t understand this yet.”

It doesn’t matter if you’ve seen an idea fail a hundred times. Anti-patterns exist because they seem like good solutions. Instead of appealing to your experience, demonstrate it by making a strong argument.

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