Published by dan on Jan 12, 2020

How hard would it be to …?

Filed under Technology

I've been reading the book Never Split the Difference by Chriss Voss. It focuses on negotiating from the perspective of a hostage negotiator turned corporate consultant. He really drives the point to avoid direct confrontation which turns people defensive. Instead he focuses on four concepts: labels, effective pauses, calibrated questions, and tone of voice.

While the book assumes you are the one asking the questions, an interesting thing happened after I read about calibrated questions: I received a perfectly calibrated question, one that I've gotten a thousand times before. How hard would it be to … ?

Notice what the question does:

  • Begins the initial brainstorming / design phase of software development inside a hypothetical non-request. "We're just having a conversation"
  • Indirectly challenges my profiency, like asking a body builder how hard it would be for them to lift a certain weight. "How easy" would be easier to answer "not easy" without considering the question too much. "How hard" uses my ego against me.

The asker isn't consciously asking it this way because they've read Chris Voss. They just know my plate is full and I'd rather not add to it. They've just learned this is the best way to start "the negotiation".