DON’T RUN! (tips for communicating I learned from my nephew)

I just finished teaching an Agile Testing Class to an awesome testing team in Dallas.  We spent a good amount of time discussing how to communicate effectively with other team members. Specifically, we were talking about how to approach a developer when you need them to implement a solution in a different way that lends itself to easier testability.  I often hear these conversations start with words like, “Don’t put the code…..” or “I can’t complete my tasks if you…..” or “Every time you do that I can’t….” etc.  You get the point…they are very negative statements.  Without meaning to, you are putting up a wall and the person you are talking to is likely to go on the defensive immediately.  Not a great way to foster teamwork.
I have a 4-year-old nephew that, like all other boys his age, absolutely can NOT walk anywhere.  His feet only know how to move at a run.  I have spent several hours of my life saying (or shouting), “Don’t run!!!”  “Stop Running!”  I recently learned a great tip from his pre-school teacher.  Rather then constantly telling him what NOT to do, just remind him of what he can do.  So, I have learned to use the phrase , “Use your walking feet!”  Not only do I sound like a much nicer person when I say that in crowded public places, he responds to it so much better.  He is allowed and encouraged to use his walking feet.  He is just being reminded of good behavior.
I encourage team members to apply this same principle when you are communicating with one another.  Instead of telling a developer what NOT to do, offer up a suggestion of what would work great.  If you aren’t sure what will work, show them what you are trying to do and ask for their help in crafting a solution.  By communicating this way, you are fostering better collaboration and team work instead of putting each other on the defensive.
Oh, and use your walking feet when you go talk to them ☺