The one truth: how to interpret IT discourse

I used to think it was scary to have an opinion about technical things because having an opinion makes you a target for people who know better. Last year, something changed. I realised that strong opinion and vocal disagreement characterise those who know less than they need to before asserting arguments.

The “one truth” approach to things is largely based on the following psychological fundaments:

  • I have not tried to understand what you have said
  • I have not understood what was said because I have limited understanding of the issue at hand
  • I have an agenda beyond the current context

Some people simply are strong on “just talking”; listening isn’t their game. But, we can all do better at the latter.

It’s also often the case that knowing a bit about a thing makes you overvalue your own competence and assume that others have no knowledge — or at least no knowledge of any value — if it is tangential to your own. Even people of long experience can have limited understanding because they have experience doing the same or very similar things over a longer period of time; younger, less confident people would hesitate in this position. This latter case is very common in IT specifically because we specialise early on. Spread your net wider and seek people with fresh perspectives.

The final “agenda” is often power. People aren’t magnanimous, they can be selfish. Simply don’t be that person — that person serves no purpose in any context.

Given the right audience, rhetorical strong persuasion is fun, but with the wrong audience (i.e. not close friends) it is neither humorous nor effective. It’s also very easy to confuse with just being a bit of a jerk.

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