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    Empathy Online culture thoughtbot.com
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    OTOH, the solution was presented in a direct, non confrontational way. I’m not sure I see what the problem is.

    Admittedly, I grew up on this sort of rhetoric.

    I think my issue is that the asker shouldn’t feel entitled to empathy. It is nice, but it should be extended only if the answerer wishes to. Compelling it sort of negates the whole thing.

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      It’s not a problem per se, but when I answer a question for someone it’s normally because I care about helping them out. If I can slightly tweak the way I respond while spending little (or even no) more effort to come across as friendly then that sounds like a win.

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        What I’m hearing is that to you, asking someone to add empathy instead of doing it naturally sounds disingenuous. I certainly understand that if you grew up this way, but most people do not. I certainly agree with you when it’s over the top and often attached to a help desk script or chatbot, but I don’t believe that’s the entire gist of this.

        What I got out of the article is the idea since it’s difficult to show emotion online that is conveyed nonverbally in person, extra effort goes a long way. Given that many folks asking questions may be a new to an area of study and often are at peak frustration when asking a question online. If you’re willing to help, then showing a tiny bit of extra effort to not push them entirely away from the field is a good thing. Chances are, they know a bunch of things you don’t know about and you may need help someday.

        So yes, I can see where you may not see a problem, but remember that large segments of people enter our various fields, or never even study long enough to bother entering, because they feel left out due to multiple gatekeeping methods. If we can make a tiny improvement here and there when answering questions to not be gatekeepers, even unconsciously, this will go a long way. Not an accusation of you personally, as I don’t think that’s your intent, but that is what I got from the post.

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          I’m not sure I see what the problem is.

          That approach only really works well for the tiny subset of people like you and I who grew up on it.

          Compelling it sort of negates the whole thing.

          At work, you are compelled to perform your job function.

          As a senior developer, that job function typically includes improving the junior staff. You’ll never be as effective as you could in that function without cultivating a habit of empathy.

          It’s fine not to be high-impact in all areas, but ‘how do I teach people effectively’ is a topic that hasn’t changed in thousands of years, and it’s pretty clear that the student needs to feel good about what they’re learning.

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            At work, you are compelled to perform your job function.

            This gives away the plot.

            It’s fine not to be high-impact in all areas, but ‘how do I teach people effectively’ is a topic that hasn’t changed in thousands of years, and it’s pretty clear that the student needs to feel good about what they’re learning.

            Much education has historically focused on challenging students, from Plato to Gateless Gate to military schools and boot camps. A segment of American corporate culture is becoming like a segment of American academic culture where acceptable speech, behavior, etc. are redefined in line with new norms. This ‘empathy’ push is part of that cultural change. I personally have no interest in helping the professional managerial class jockey for power in this crumbling capitalist world-order.

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              Much education has historically focused on challenging students, from Plato to Gateless Gate to military schools and boot camps

              An excellent way to ensure someone feels good is to set them a task they know is difficult. Not giving people access to challenging work is a great way to ensure they feel like crap and don’t learn anything.

              A segment of American corporate culture is becoming like a segment of American academic culture where acceptable speech, behavior, etc. are redefined in line with new norms. This ‘empathy’ push is part of that cultural change.

              I agree that cultural change does include an empathy push. I don’t think that’s the troublesome part of it (specifically, for reasons I do not understand, there’s been a huge push to ensure all students pass all subjects, with disastrous consequences).

              I personally have no interest in helping the professional managerial class jockey for power in this crumbling capitalist world-order.

              I’ve quit the big corporate space and am not going back. One of the biggest things I hated there was commands disguised as kind questions, so I can see your point there.

              Still, I feel like the core of the argument - make an additional effort to be kind to the people you are working with, even when you are in a hurry to do something else - is worthwhile. Viewed on a scale of years, your network is far more valuable to you personally than any of the work you are doing.

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                This gives away the plot.

                Sorry for #me-too trashy comment but omg that was for sure the best thing I read today. I lol’d

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                At work, you are compelled to perform your job function.

                As a senior developer, that job function typically includes improving the junior staff. You’ll never be as effective as you could in that function without cultivating a habit of empathy.

                Empathy isn’t a habit or something you need to ‘cultivate’ by pretending to be nice online.

                It’s fine not to be high-impact in all areas, but ‘how do I teach people effectively’ is a topic that hasn’t changed in thousands of years, and it’s pretty clear that the student needs to feel good about what they’re learning.

                How to teach people effectively has changed drastically in even the last couple of decades…

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                  Empathy isn’t a habit or something you need to ‘cultivate’ by pretending to be nice online.

                  I’m not sure what you are getting at. It is very much a trainable skill and skills are trained by making them a habit.

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                There isn’t a problem, there’s a massive opportunity for growth

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                I think this comes down to cultural differences to a certain extent.

                Personally, I don’t think there’s any value in saying “Oh no! 😕 If you upgrade your ruby version, that should fix it” over saying “If you upgrade your ruby version, that should fix it”. The former doesn’t convey any additional sense of empathy to me. It’s just less formal. The difference is just communication style: some people have highly adorned communication styles, with lots of superfluous language and little stylistic flourishes. That’s not a bad thing unless taken to an extreme where it obscures meaning. I’ve been trying to do it less for that reason. Here though it’s just someone being more informal, which is fine but not mandatory.

                Saying ‘Hi Devin, happy to be of service to you today. I think that the problem is that your version of Ruby is outdated. I think that if you try to upgrade your version of Ruby, your issue will be resolved. have a nice day :)’ is a level of fake niceness and deference that just isn’t appropriate on a free software issue tracker, IMO. It’s what I’d expect from a customer service worker, someone that is paid to put up with people asking stupid questions, and not paid enough for it I might add.

                No the real difference between “Upgrade your Ruby version” and “If you upgrade your ruby version, that should fix it” is that the former is imperative. To me, but perhaps not to whoever wrote it, imperatives are mostly used by adults towards children and in formal hierarchical structures. A military officer might command his men and a parent might tell their children to go to bed (and perhaps teachers to children too) but in almost any other situation, a simple imperative without a ‘please’ is just rude. “Please upgrade your Ruby version” does have a kind of ‘customer service’-y vibe to it but also doesn’t come across as rude. To me.

                But that’s just me and it’s based on my upbringing, in New Zealand, of my particular age. It varies across cultures, could very well be different in more religious or more rural communities even here, certainly is different in other cultures, probably is different for my grandparents, and might be different for people that grew up even 10 years earlier or later than I did.

                All that is to say, it’s free/libre software with free/gratis support if you get any at all. You are requesting help from someone that has no legal obligation to help you or even respond to your queries. And I think really no moral or social obligation to help you either, although there is a social expectation of at least a response to a query even if the response is ‘i’m very busy atm sorry, you’ll have to figure that out yourself’. You should show deference to them and their cultural norms. It’s their software project. It’s their issue tracker. You are entering their domain and you need to understand that and respect that.

                I wonder if part of the disconnect here is that Americans are mostly culturally isolated and most don’t interact in real life with anyone that isn’t an American. Obviously that’s less true in some of the bigger cities, but even then American culture is so dominant in American media that a lot of Americans probably don’t really realise that not everyone is quite like them until they start interacting with people online. And even then, there are so many Americans online it’s easy to not interact with people unlike you for quite a while online and grow accustomed to it.

                For me, growing up in a port town and a country where 25% of the population weren’t born here, cultural differences are everywhere. I saw Russian sailors at the supermarket, my parents had friends from all over the place, I had Somalian refugees in my classes at secondary school, lots of immigrants in classes, etc. So being exposed to so many different people from so many different cultures, the idea that everyone is like me just never occurred to me in the first place.

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                  No the real difference between “Upgrade your Ruby version” and “If you upgrade your ruby version, that should fix it” is that the former is imperative.

                  This puts it really well. The former commands, the latter informs.

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                    “Upgrade your Ruby version” is a sucky answer for a completely different reason. It’s neither specific nor motivated. That makes it sound like a random guess at best.

                    Consider this answer: “Make sure your Ruby version is at least 42.0, this program needs frobnicate() that wasn’t in the standard library until that version.” I now know if my Ruby is older than 42.0, I must upgrade, and I have a way to verify if my Ruby installation is suitable. I also know that it will fix at least that particular error, assuming the answerer is competent.

                    Now consider “I had this problem and upgrading my Ruby version to 42.0 fixed it.” The answerer is sharing a personal experience and clearly marks it as such. From that wording I know that the answerer may not know why that fixed the problem and if that fails I should turn to someone else, but that solution worked for someone so it’s worth a try.

                    If I heard “upgrade your Ruby version” my first question is “upgrade to what exactly?”. I have no way to know if my version is right, or if it’s a motivated answer or a random guess. Note that for people on certain OSes or in some circumstances, upgrading things may be much harder than for others.

                    If I’m at a peak frustration, what I need is specificity and authority markers, not emphathy.

                    Also, programs should be impossible to install in an unsupported environment without explicitly disabling environment checks. That’s a major frustration for me as a frequent packager. Sometimes a single line of code can eliminate a whole class of questions.

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                      “Upgrade your Ruby version” is a sucky answer for a completely different reason. It’s neither specific nor motivated. That makes it sound like a random guess at best.

                      To be scrupulously fair, the original exchange was

                      Devin: Hmmm… when I start up the app it crashes and I get this error message: Edward: upgrade your ruby version

                      It’s very possible that Edward, seeing the error message, deduced the solution.

                      But as I’ve mentioned many times in this thread, the hypothetical interaction is hard to parse.

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                        Right, but what Edward said says nothing about his motivation for that answer and doesn’t give specific instructions—that’s the issue. Adding “empaty” and rewording it like “Could you try upgrading Ruby?” does nothing to improve that.

                        An anti-emphathetic, confrontational answer can be immensely more useful, like “RTFM n00b, oldest supported Ruby version is 42.0 and the one you are running doesn’t even have frobnicate(). Why don’t you stupid lusers learn to read?”.

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                    a simple imperative without a ‘please’ is just rude.

                    Bingo, I think in the article both the initial response and the suggested one are at the ends of a spectrum, where the ideal tone, to me, is somewhere in the middle: neither curt, nor twee.

                    The dynamics of open source is complicated and for authors it’s often thankless work and dealing with undue entitlement. But I’ve also had my share of trying to contribute to something in what I considered to be a thoughtful / researched way and being met with what I perceived (possibly imprecisely / culturally-mediated[1]) as being a confrontational tone, and while I try to not dwell on it (your project your rules / you have no responsibility towards me / OSS is exhausting / reasons), I must admit these “woman yelling at cat” moments can sour, at least for the moment, my experience of $thing. Conversely, it just feels good and convivial to get back a polite answer, even if it’s on the short side. (Again, lest I come across as some thin-skinned entitled jerk who can’t read the room, this is not a request, nor something I feel entitled to; just a preference.)

                    [1] I remembered this interview with Andrzej Sapkowski (writer of The Witcher series of books) that is so funny on many levels: I recognize the rhetoric style, and how it might translate to English more awkwardly than it might sound in a more Eastern language, and how the interviewer tries to find an adjective for it (“refreshingly honest”, etc.)

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                      Right - I’ve offered working contributions to a variety of open source libraries.

                      Some of them I will contribute to again, despite the maintainers being very busy and not always being able to get to things.

                      Others I will not send patches to anymore; I keep my fixes to myself. Trying to get them integrated is simply not worth the effort, which is a pity as some are really great bits of software.

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                        A high-profile example of this is Debian forking GNU libc simply because the maintainer was too much pain to deal with, which later got re-integrated in GNU libc after said maintainer left.

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                      I think a please would look strange to me in this setting. I’m offering information, not requesting they do a thing. I (a British person) would just say “upgrade ruby?” (framing it as a hint or suggestion), or, if I felt more verbose, “upgrading ruby will probably fix that” (framing it as information).

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                        Yeah I agree it sounds a bit odd. That’s what I meant by the ‘customer service-y vibe’ where you have someone whose actual role is to tell you what to do to fix your computer but who can’t exactly just order you around. So you end up getting ‘please restart your router’ and ‘please click the start button and type in “device manager”’ i.e. politely instructing you to do things in a way that sounds a bit like a request but really is an instruction.

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                          Yeah those are both improvements on “upgrade ruby” (command).

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                        I don’t find the example very enlightening. It’s unclear whether the two people are close coworkers, working in different teams, or in a more formal “client” relationship (open source issue , paid product support inquiry).

                        Like language in general, these kinds of things are highly context-dependent.

                        Many of the commenters here seem to assume the expression of politeness or empathy with the actual emotion. Anyone who has interacted professionally with citizens of the UK will know that these are in fact often quite separate.

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                          Sure, this is nice, I hope it feels relevant to lobste.rs. I strongly disagree with the last statement that was chucked in at the end though:

                          These small acts can be the difference between a friendly community and a toxic one. We could all probably use a bit more kindness.

                          This reference to toxicity here is dangerously not true and is extremely unhelpful for some huge reasons:

                          1. People who are ‘toxic’ have very often learned to appear to be empathetic as a behaviour to manipulate others who are more in need of emotional styles of interaction
                          2. People who are being less empathetic according to this article are absolutely not necessarily being ‘toxic’. There is a hard line between harmful behaviour (such as being abusive, manipulative, harassing, exploitative) and being direct, unfriendly, unempathetic.
                          3. It can be a social strategy to manipulate or control for people who are unfriendly or unempathetic to be labelled as toxic, when they are not; this statement enales this to happen.

                          @edwardloveall Love the drive of this article, and the point in general; but, do you agree with the point I’m making here? And if so, I wonder if you’d consider a modification to this last statement that draws out the difference where it’s important between ‘unempathy’ and ‘toxicity’

                          It’s critical for collective increase in ability to identify things which are actually toxic, which more often than not are harder to recognise than things which are just unfriendly or impolite (and definitely deserve their own focus and energy)

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                            I agree with you. I felt the same when coming across that word in this otherwise good article. Related to your comment is the fact that politeness can be used as a tool for malice, as well this comment made elsewhere in another programming community:

                            I think it’s worth adding that civility can be a shield for people who are expert at playing political games, and I think there are certain people in the community who are just that… and do that. I won’t elaborate here, but suffice it to say that I have definitely had exchanges with prominent members of the community where I got the distinct feeling that that person was really just sandbagging while being very polite and making every effort to appear impartial.

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                            I’m frustrated by this blog post, because - while I appreciate the need and the place for empathy - this is the wrong framing. The example is also one where I’d expect everyone to give a pass (it’s short, solution-driven and to the point).

                            Wynn Netherlands wrote a much better argument at the beginning of the (western!) emoji era: https://wynnnetherland.com/journal/putting-the-emote-in-remote-work/

                            The point is not empathy, but that chat is a pretty rough medium that is missing a lot of channels. Emoji are a huge win to the medium and make it more accessible. Particularly, they allow us to signal our own emotion. But that has nothing to do with empathy.

                            Emoji give me an accepted short code to enrich my text with something I would usually express in a different way. The proper non-emoji version of this would be “ah, this is frustrating me every time. upgrade ruby.” (if the actual emotion of the speaker were frustration). Yes, I’m chatting since 1995, so I can do without emoji, we used ASCII short codes. I’m super happy about emoji because they enrich the medium and make it relevant.

                            Empathy is an important skill that can be worked on, but glossing it over every interaction is very en vogue.

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                              Replace the “asker” with a young female student and “answerer” with a middle age male professor and such use of emojis can now be interpreted as borderline flirting and be unwelcome.

                              Furthermore emojis are too simple to express real emotions which are more complex than a single drawn face. In the rare cases when I used them I found myself not really “connecting” with the vibe they portray. And they tend to overstate. For example I suspect that very few who write “lol” are actually laughing out loud. But then why create this false sentimentality in the first place.

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                                As an older male who has worked with younger women emojis don’t mean flirting, unless you’re specifically using flirtatious or gratuitous emojis. You are correct that lol doesn’t literally mean laugh out loud anymore and hasn’t for many years. Like other forms of communication, spoken, hand (asl, and other sign languages), written, etc, meaning and pronunciation change over time.

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                                This always feels fake to me. That is because I am not from an anglo-saxon background and in my culture this would be considered fake friendliness. It reminds of this weird pattern where if you ask somebody something and they always start with “great question!”. I feel like I am treated like a kindergardener or something. Get to the point already, I have other things to do.

                                I think that if you want to be able to thrive in tech you have to be able to endure a certain level of pain. Computers are a gigantic mess. There is rubberband and duct tape everywhere and things are broken all the time. I am not feeling sorry for you because something is not working for you. That is normal and you should accept that it is normal. It is part of this profession that things are messy and if you cannot handle a neutral answer to a seemingly normal problem, you are going to have a bad time.

                                You will always get my empathy if you have personal issues that you are dealing with, but broken software is part of what we do.

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                                  I agree on the cultural background. For my own background, expressing emotions and concern I don’t have seems like deception. It’s often mentioned as a weird point when communicating with people from the US. I’m happy to use fuller sentences though.

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                                    I’m not entirely sure what you mean by “anglo-saxon” background. Insofar as that term refers to the shared culture of white English-speaking people across the several major Anglophone countries, I am from that background and I completely agree that it feels like fake friendliness, and has the air of a schoolteacher addressing a small child. That said, I think this is a kind of fake friendliness that is (unfortunately) common in the white anglosphere, particularly among women, and I think people from other cultural backgrounds might be less likely to insist that this kind of cloying language is necessary to show empathy.

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                                    Someone suggests that maybe we could be more empathetic and half of the responses are anti-empathy. Typical “tech-bros” responses. E.g. @cdo “mollycoddling”, @mrr “[..] I don’t think there’s any value [..]”, @gerikson “I don’t find the example very enlightening.”, @icy “Not everyone has the time to construct a response like in your example. Besides, there was nothing hostile in the first answer either.”, @LibertarianLlama “[..] I’m not sure why. [..] You either have it, or you don’t.”, @jackdk “Devin has not done any due diligence”.

                                    This isn’t about saying you’re wrong, it’s about saying “we” can do better. Instead of saying the authoring is wrong, maybe we need to reflect on ourselves a little more. Why is our industry overwhelmingly white? Why is our industry overwhelmingly male? Maybe this has something to do with it?

                                    Sorry if this comes off as a little rant-y but it’s incredibly frustrating to have someone ask for things to be a little friendlier and half of the response be basically “no”. There’s plenty of evidence that our culture has issues: https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/change-culture-not-curriculum-for-women-in-cs/ and https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g1ib43q3uXQ as just a couple examples.

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                                      I should have been clearer in my comment - my point was that without more context, it was hard for me to determine if the perceived lack of empathy in the initial exchange was a bad thing.

                                      • between two peers with a shared work history - normal
                                      • between a person new to the organization and a mentor figure - lacking empathy if it was the first exchange, normal in a longer conversation
                                      • in a dedicated help channel on IRC - normal

                                      Etc, etc.

                                      I don’t think the point about being empathetic is a bad one, only that the chosen example ironically required empathy for the author’s point of view.

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                                        Someone suggests that maybe we could be more empathetic and half of the responses are anti-empathy.

                                        I don’t think anyone is being ‘anti-empathy’, we just disagree with what you mean by ‘empathy’. I specifically said in my comment (that you shortened down from eight deeply personal paragraphs about my own experiences and views on a culturally variable issue to a sentence fragment):

                                        The former doesn’t convey any additional sense of empathy to me. It’s just less formal.

                                        It was right after the bit you quoted from my comment as well, so I doubt you missed it - unless you only read far enough until you found a sentence fragment your internal LR parser reduces to something you find objectionable and early-exited.

                                        I’m really unsure how you got ‘anti-empathy’ from ‘this doesn’t convey any additional sense of empathy to me’. Maybe I’ll rephrase it: being more informal doesn’t make you more empathetic at all, in my opinion. Chattiness doesn’t make you seem more empathetic. Corporate chatbots and customer service drones are super chatty ‘Hey how are you? Are you having a nice day? What can I do for you? Well if you want to solve that problem I think the best way to do it is …’. They’re not empathetic, quite the opposite. They really do not give one tiddlywink about you or the problems you’re having and I hope no-one is fooled into thinking they do.

                                        This isn’t about saying you’re wrong, it’s about saying “we” can do better. Instead of saying the authoring is wrong, maybe we need to reflect on ourselves a little more.

                                        Or perhaps the author needs to reflect on themselves a little more and think about the fact that not everyone comes from the same cultural background as them? Maybe you need to think for a little and realise that you can’t expect the world to change to suit you. If you can’t handle someone saying ‘Upgrade your Ruby version’ as a free response to your unsolicited support request, then you need to seriously re-evaluate your sense of entitlement, in my opinion.

                                        If you want to pay someone to give you flowery, fake friendliness on top of their paid technical support, then go right ahead, but acting like you’re entitled to it free-of-charge from every free software maintainer or developer on GitHub is incredibly arrogant, IMO.

                                        Why is our industry overwhelmingly white? Why is our industry overwhelmingly male? Maybe this has something to do with it?

                                        Why would this have anything to do with the whiteness of the American software industry? In my (admittedly small) experience interacting with Americans both here and in the United States, the black Americans I encountered were significantly more direct than the white Americans. And that’s backed up by my general perception around American racial stereotypes of black people ‘saying it like it is’ etc.

                                        If anything the American software industry is probably excluding black people by expecting this kind of white middle class cultural norm.

                                        And looking at the stats, the software industry isn’t overwhelmingly white either, there are huge numbers of software developers of Asian descent in the US, both American-born and immigrants. I’d hazard to say there are bigger cultural differences between the US and China, India, Korea or Japan than there are between black and white Americans.

                                        Sorry if this comes off as a little rant-y but it’s incredibly frustrating to have someone ask for things to be a little friendlier and half of the response be basically “no”.

                                        But that’s the thing, it’s not just asking for things to be ‘a little friendlier’, is it? It’s asking people to use the language and norms of American customer service staff when talking to people on issue trackers. It’s really not about empathy.

                                        If the author had some empathy they’d think about what it’s like to help people for free and then be told you’re not being friendly enough. If someone told me that I should use this kind of fake friendliness after I’d helped them by telling them how to fix their problem, I’d tell them to piss off and not expect any free help from me ever again.

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                                          I apologize, I should not have included you in that list. I had read though your response initially but was only skimming when going back through for a second read.

                                          whiteness of the American software industry

                                          From my experience in the American software industry, it is overwhelmingly white and male. Across the very large and very small companies I’ve worked at as well as my college courses at both university and community college I have only occasionally had non-white, non-American, or non-male peers. The more coastal the company, the more diverse it’s gotten but only marginally so.

                                          it’s not just asking for things to be ‘a little friendlier’, is it?

                                          I agree that empathy can look different across different cultures. I don’t think the author is saying that everyone should adhere to specific language, but in the context of an example some language has to be chosen and that example won’t fit every culture. I don’t think giving a terse response should responded to with claiming you’re un-empathetic, but the idea that “it’s free feedback so I can say it however I want” does come off as harsh, irrespective of it’s terseness.

                                          Having traveled a decent amount around the world and around the US, I don’t think the length of a response denotes empathy. E.g. in the midwest US, people have a way of giving long winded responses that basically boil down to belittling the person while sounding somewhat polite. All the people I’ve met from Oakland, CA tend to be very blunt, which many interpret as rude. @cdo’s response “mollycoddling” in comparison to yours is a perfect example of it not being about length but content.

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                                        I wonder if this matches up with Carnegie Mellon’s success with bringing in and graduating a more diverse group of computer science students https://rework.withgoogle.com/blog/change-culture-not-curriculum-for-women-in-cs/.

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                                          Use complete sentences: That error message appears due to an old version of Ruby. Can you try again after upgrading?

                                          IMO this particular response in the list is safest across the cultures (‘safest’ in regards to having the least chance of being seen as rude or being out of place). For example, if someone responds in this context with “Hi Devin! Glad to see you here.” - it would come across as a “fake” appreciation to me (and a needless one at that), so I would never use it in this strategic manner myself. However, I do see the value of using complete sentences, because shorter sentences like in this example can easily be seen as rude.

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                                            It is very reasonable to say that all the time it is the responsbility of every one of us to communicate precisely and perfectly exactly what our needs are moment to moment so that there can be no fuzzy misunderstandings or miscommunications. We can all say what we mean 100% of the time, and everything will be great, and it is never the responsibilty of any person to put energy into modifying their behaviour to compensate for someone else (e.g. ‘empathy’).

                                            This would be amazing (and in relationships I have with people where we do this, it is amazing). The problem is, for whatever reason, it doesn’t work like that in real life with most people, most of the time. People are all mushy and have who-the-fuck-knows-what going on inside their heads and in their lives away from the fucking printer that they’re trying to get you to help them fix.

                                            The issue is that it’s very hard for most people, most of the time to even understand and communicate everything about how they are feeling within a particular context and there is a simple method which makes that easier for everyone, which is effectively to say:

                                            I don’t care what is going on with you emotionally. Whatever it is, it’s ok, and I just care a lot about helping you fix the printer so that you can go away and I can go back to rewriting Haskell for this 4 bit microcontroller I’m emulating on an FPGA board in my drawer when I should be fixing the backups that failed last week. I’m sure if you told me about your Mom who is sick I would understand and care and I would hope she and you feel better, so if that is happening, it’s ok, you don’t have to tell me about it and I’ll understand if you’re sad or slow today, we can just get on with fixing the printer.

                                            So twist ending.. it turns out, that the best way to say this if you actually just want the person to go away and leave you alone, is to use a tiny bit of your energy to make them understand that everything is ok and you will help them and you’ll try to do that as fast and as easily as possible, and the difference is often only a few words.

                                            It is their responsibility to deal with all their shit, but it’s a tiny investment of your energy to make a situation that leads to what you want faster and more easily for nearly any arbitrary selection of mushy-broken-humans that you come across.

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                                              In the provided example, Devin has not done any due diligence (e.g., ensuring that his dependencies are up-to-date). Not only is Devin implicitly asking Edward to perform the extra work that he should have done before presenting the question, but the author is also asking Edward to perform emotional labour on top of that. That doesn’t seem fair or scalable, especially given the pressures often placed on FOSS maintainers.

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                                                Not everyone has the time to construct a response like in your example. Besides, there was nothing hostile in the first answer either.

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                                                  @edwardloveall

                                                  Don’t really have any thoughts on the article, just wanted to express my gratitude for all of the different kinds of content Thoughbot has produced, several years ago when I was first getting into Elixir there were a few succinct guides that illustrated conceptual leaps not in the official Elixir docs which made grokking things a lot easier.

                                                  It’s the only company blog I have willingly subscribed to. Thanks for not just being more noise on the internet.

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                                                    Thank you! That’s very kind of you to say. I’ll share it internally. 😊

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                                                    There is this recent trend for ‘empathy’. I keep hearing people talking about it. I’m not sure why.

                                                    The problem with this is empathy is an attribute of a person. You either have it, or you don’t. If you don’t, then you are some kind of psychopath. And telling people who don’t have empathy to have or show empathy is not useful.

                                                    On the inverse, when people ask others to show empathy, they are themselves demonstrating their lack of empathy. Because if they had been in the other person’s shoes, by the law of determinism, they would also not be showing empathy. In this way, it is just a way to impose your ideas onto others.

                                                    Here, it is used to impose the idea that it’s the responsibility of the transmitter to cater to the demand of the receiver, rather than the other way around: that receiver should interpret any communication online as being tone-neutral, unless presented with VERY STRONG evidence otherwise. Which has been the rules of the internet for decades.

                                                    I think the old way is better. It is much easier to control your own emotion, than to anticipate others.

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                                                      Here, it is used to impose the idea that it’s the responsibility of the transmitter to cater to the demand of the receiver, rather than the other way around: that receiver should interpret any communication online as being tone-neutral, unless presented with VERY STRONG evidence otherwise. Which has been the rules of the internet for decades.

                                                      I certainly agree that the world is a better place when we interpret other’s communications with grace and extend the benefit of the doubt. Unfortunately, we can only control our own actions. It’s much more useful to focus on how you can improve every interaction you participate in than to simply complain that other people are too sensitive.

                                                      For the same reason, the communicator is responsible for the message received by the audience. If the audience leaves the interaction with an incorrect message, then the communicator failed. You must meet your audience where they are, then bring them to your point of view. It’s not easy, but it’s necessary.

                                                      The problem with this is empathy is an attribute of a person. You either have it, or you don’t. If you don’t, then you are some kind of psychopath. And telling people who don’t have empathy to have or show empathy is not useful.

                                                      I think it’s helpful to remind people to use tools and strategies that might not come naturally to them. I am capable of going to bed on time, but I do it more consistently when my phone starts locking itself down 30 minutes before bed time.

                                                      In-person social interactions have lots of queues that remind you to adjust your behavior. If you snap at someone in person, you’ll see them flinch. You can see that the person in front of you is worried, stressed, etc. Computer-mediated human interactions lack those non-verbal queues, so it’s harder to remember to slow down, have compassion, and make connections.

                                                      I think it’s valueable to encourage empathy.

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                                                          Alternatively, you don’t give any energy at all to the energy extortionist so they will learn to leave you alone.

                                                          In your fantasy when you pat the person on the back and say “there there” they don’t just become energised, they will give you sad eyes and expect even more from you.

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                                                            I disagree that empathy is a trend. Humans are social animals and social structures are not possible without some level of empathy. This means it has been around at least since humans were lower primates, and probably much longer since a wide variety of mammals exhibit social behaviour.

                                                            The trend as I see it is the use of text communication in short form. Our instinctual communication modes are primed to unconsciously transmit large amounts of social context data through body language, facial expressions and tone of voice. While writing this I am unconsciously sending all this data to you without noticing, even reciting this text in a specific tone of voice in my head. Unfortunately you will never receive it. You can not see or hear me. In order to communicate clearly, we have to compensate for this when using text.

                                                            You may disagree with some of the specific examples in the article, I know I do. There are simple principles that can be applied to increase the chances that we can communicate clearly and accurately. For me the waste of energy is communicating at all when there is a risk that it will be misunderstood.

                                                            I am not sure what circumstances lead to your concern about ‘energy extortionists’, and not caring if the receiver of your communication gets it or not. I imagine there was some incident or incidents in your past where you felt that someone was emotionally exploiting you. I have had such experiences myself and can relate. For me personally the question of empathetic communication online is merely about making communication clearer and more accurate. If you find communicating with someone is causing you distress then by all means, stop.

                                                            In the interest of clear communication I should also mention, I did not understand the third paragraph of your first reply, starting with ‘On the inverse,…’

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                                                              I disagree that empathy is a trend.

                                                              The trend I mentioned is “people are telling others to have empathy”, not empathy itself.

                                                              In the interest of clear communication I should also mention, I did not understand the third paragraph of your first reply, starting with ‘On the inverse,…’

                                                              People telling others to have empathy are themselves not empathetic, because they are imposing their ideas of how another person should behave, rather than empathising.

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                                                        Thanks for the writeup! I struggle a lot with communicating tone via online messaging, and this is quite helpful.

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                                                          I can see why just “upgrade your ruby version” would be considered rude, as others pointed out, because it’s just a command, and it would be better to frame it as a suggestion (“You should upgrade…”), but personally I find adding what the author calls small acknowledgment of their emotions (“Oh no! 😕”) a bit offensive. It sounds really fake and infantilising, if not condescending, and if I’m feeling frustrated because I’ve been banging my head against this problem for a while it would probably just make me more angry.

                                                          Edit: this turned out to be more negative than I meant to. We should definitely be more kind when talking to each other online and I agree with the other suggestions in the post, I just take issue with that part.

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                                                            mollycoddling