How to Get People to Agree with You
Often in software development and testing we encounter these situations. A developer refuses to fix a bug that would make the user’s life easier. A software tester won’t let go of fighting for a bug that isn't important to anyone on the project who matters. Project management insists that a feature be complete in a week when the team lead says it will take a month. Sometimes intelligent, reasonable people just don’t get it.
The good news is those people probably haven’t gone temporarily stupid, so you can stop banging your head against a wall. You simply need to reassess the situation and see how they see things.
Picture a total solar eclipse. From Earth, a solar eclipse happens when the moon passes between the sun and Earth, completely blocking the sun. Even though the sun is definitely there, and the sun’s diameter is actually 400 times greater than the moon’s, you can’t see it in a total solar eclipse because the moon is 400 times closer than the sun, and it’s plopped itself down right in front of the sun.
If you took an alien, freshly landed on planet Earth, sent here in a pod as a baby from a distant part of the universe, and took him outside for the first time during a total solar eclipse, could you convince him that there was a sun out there, behind the moon, and in fact 400 times larger? The alien might be skeptical.
Sometimes we have things close in our vision that block our view of reality. We hold little moons in front of our faces that prevent us from seeing big suns. This isn’t necessarily our fault; sometimes things can impose themselves in front of the truth without our deliberately putting them there.
The project manager who insists that feature be complete when it can’t be done may be hard-pressed to accept reality because he’s afraid that he’ll look bad or get chewed out by his boss if the timeline runs long. The software tester who refuses to let go of a bug may feel insecure about his worth to the team, so he’s not fighting as much for the bug to be fixed as he is for recognition and security.
The key to getting people to grasp the truth is to remove the obstacles in front of their eyes. You have to address the obstacle, or the root of the obstacle, before you can expect them to see anything beyond it. Before you do this, you must step back and seek to understand what that person is really seeing.
If their moon is blocking your sun, arguing about the existence of the sun is pointless. You must first, gently, seek to address what people are holding close to them before attempting to convince them of what’s close or obvious to you.