Michał Muzyczka
Michał Muzyczka's Blog

Michał Muzyczka's Blog

How to ask questions via chat?

How to ask questions via chat?

Michał Muzyczka's photo
Michał Muzyczka
·Nov 1, 2021·

4 min read

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Everyone sometimes stucks on something. If you don't know how to do something, then you have to start asking. And formulating good questions is a skill that we acquire with time. The better the question is, the better answer you will receive. Because you don't want an answer, but the answer that helps you, don't you? Today I want to share tips that I use every day while asking for help. Most of them will be handy both for technical and business problems.

#1 Do not write "doesn't work"

It happens that something works for everyone except us. But on top of that, we got some messages - in most cases, there exists more than one reason for the "doesn't work problem." It may be wrong configuration, VPN, skipped step, and a lot more. Try to attach a message or screenshot (Windows has a great program, "Snipping tool" which makes attaching files stupidly easy), the picture can say more than 1000 words. Otherwise, rather than a satisfactory answer, you'll end up with a question whenever or not there is some message.

#2 Avoid XY problems

XY problem is a situation when you have problem X that you want to resolve with Y, and you need help with Y. But it isn't necessarily the best solution or might even doesn't work. It shows that you looked up for solution before asking someone, and that's a big plus. So, instead of "Do you know to do Y? (because I want to solve X)", try to ask "I want to do X. I think that Y will help that, but ...". It's a common communication problem that we should be aware of all the time, not just when asking about technical problems.

#3 Search the Internet before ask

All of us are unique, but most of our problems aren't. There is a high probability that someone had the same issue, and you can find the solution there. Another place to search for is documentation. If you found something but it didn't help, then you can attach a link to that within the question - the person you ask will see that you tried to find the solution. It helps to avoid wasting your time by skipping response with the thing you tried. It also makes the problem looks more challenging. The more challenging problem is the more fun with solving it.

#4 Make some introduction

Some systems are huge. As a result, they contain many similar parts - to avoid confusion, try to say about what part of an application you ask, and what steps did you do until now. Better context, better answer.

#5 Make a proposition

If you ask "How to ..." then try to give 2-3 options to choose from. Maybe none of them will be good enough, but at least you show your way of thinking, and as a result, again you increase chances to get a better answer. In an ideal world, everyone should be welcoming and give you the best feedback, the truth is that sometimes you will have to deal with a person that is really bad at communication. I believe in some situations it may help that necessity be more pleased.

#6 Don't wait too long

You should find the answer by yourself, but don't waste more than 30-60mins on "just-looking." If you got stuck and can't find anything new, then ask someone from your team. As a professional, you create value, so you should not just sit and wait for a revelation. You ask today, and someone will ask you tomorrow. We need to communicate not just with a computer, but with other people as well.

#7 Be polite

I think it's always good to remember about thanking for receiving help. If someone helped you with a bigger problem or with a series of smaller problems - then you may say "thank you" on a daily or another scrum meeting. You will not only show your gratitude but you will make people like you more.

Thank you for reading - if you found it somehow helpful, then share it with friends. I'm going to write a post about non-programming each Monday so you may want to follow me.

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