Hacking Your Brain’s API: Giving & Getting Help (Notes)


“Getting technical help without being scared, and giving technical help without being a jerk accidentally”

Asking can be hard
Helping can be hard
Helping can be HUGE
-Can turn a grumpy person into a friend
-Angry writer actually cares

Helping is Culture

Teachers let boys struggle a bit more
-implicitly send signal that boys are more capable


Hacker School
-Oh, I got an error in my code – how interesting, I’ve got something to learn

Little Voice/Imposter Syndrome
-Work with it, instead of against it
-Everyone experiences it differently

If you’re talking to an experienced person:
you have certain overlaps & non-overlaps

If you’re confused, you’re about to learn something

1.  Find a good place to work
-Non-toxic – pay attention to Leaders and Founders when interviewing
-They set the culture
2.  Ask Early
[I struggle with this]
15 minute rule
“You need to ask earlier, or WE can’t move as fast”

3.  Demonstrate competence
-Experts like helping people who will take the ball and run with it
-Audit speech patterns
-Remove passivity
-Delete all the “I thinks…”

4.  Tell them what you need
-Say what kind of help you want and don’t want
-30 % feedback – telling them how much done the thing you’re asking for feedback on is
-this let’s them frame the feedback accordingly
“Hey, I’m looking at this thing, it’s 30% done, what do you think”
-This frees you up to show stuff that’s messy

Form Factor tells them what kind of feedback you want
-Whiteboard vs. Photoshopped Image
-Including typos to indicate you want feedback

5.  Say what you’ve already done
-Be specific
“My current understanding is __.  I expect to see __.  Instead it’s doing __.  What’s going on?”
“I want to do __ and I’m trying it by doing __.  What do you think?”
-Repeat advice back to speaker to make sure you check your understanding
-Basically, empathic listening
-Catches wrong direction


Helping Team IS the job
The curse of knowledge
-remember what it was like to be a beginner
Every Question is an opportunity to make team stronger:
-Listen Carefully
-If you don’t know the answer, Model “not knowing”

1.  Welcome Questions:
-If not getting enough, reward question askers
“That’s a great question”
Reward for asking questions
“Don’t shoot the dog – new art of teaching and training” – Karen Pryor
-If too many questions from same person, teach them how to fish
-Before you ask:
Google It
Read the error message
Ask another student
THEN you can ask a teacher

2.  People will always remember how you made them feel
-Consider the little voice
-No feigning surprise
Assume Competence
-How familiar are you with ____
-Praise in Public, Criticize in Private
-“If I’m giving feedback, I check how they’d like the feedback – offer to pair or email them privately”

3.  Share the how and why, not just the what

4.  Don’t grab the steering wheel
-Feels very invasive
-Ask first

5.  Watch your Language
-Easy, Just, Obviously, etc.
Emote in Writing
No “Well-Actuallys”
-Distraction from the main topic

6.  Don’t Coddle … instead Push + Support

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