Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Hulk Syndrome

Fig 1. An incredible hulk

[Banner] Ah, see. I don't get a suit of armor. I'm exposed, like a nerve. It's a nightmare.
What brilliant use of language that is, to explain why hulk is so angry all the time.

In just using the words "exposed" and "nerve", it communicates so much, that hulk is in unimaginable pain, that it's difficult to just think about what he is doing.

This morning I'm going to try to explain Hulk Syndrome, the thing that seemingly happens to us when we think we are being unjustly criticized, and propose a way to tame the beast.

Banner was exposed to gamma rays, why are programmers angry ?

From the first time you go out into the community and try to talk about something, you are ruthlessly criticized. Criticism is usually a good thing, it usually comes from a good place, but can be none the less difficult to hear.

Criticisms are our gamma rays, after prolonged exposure, whenever we are out in public, we are exposed, like a nerve. It can be a nightmare.

It's not enough that the rational bits of our brain can recognize the obvious truth that criticism usually comes from a good place. In the heat of the moment, we can tend to display characteristics of Hulk Syndrome, even if we don't let our symptoms leak onto twitter, email, or any other communications.

How to tame the beast ?

We don't have to be slaves to our brain chemistry, and emotions. I like to think I am getting mine under control. I can easily be wrong and maybe I'm as hulk as ever, but I don't feel it.

I achieve this by doing a very simple thing. Whenever I feel as if some communication contains unjust criticism, I ask myself the following:

Can I reword the communication, so that if there are questions being asked, they provoke a solution or insight, so that if there are genuine concerns being raised, I notice them ?

I think this works because it's illogical to write something to myself that is hostile, it's illogical to perceive it as hostile in any way.

It doesn't matter what you do to tame the beast, so long as by the time subsequent communications take place, you are actually thinking about what is being said to you.

Why not just hulk smash the haters ?

Just like hulk, we destroy everything around us when we do. Not in the real world, obviously, but in our working relationships with people who care so much they are reaching out to communicate in the first place.

Fig 2. Thor, "reasoning" with hulk
[Thor] We are not your enemies, Banner. Try to think!