The title is the second half:
The truth is, rarely can a response make something better.
What makes something better, is connection. – Brené Brown
The quote comes as the final thought in this excellent RSA short:
I came across this as part of a presentation given by Didi Hirsch Mental Health Services about preventing suicide. Heavy. I know. But hard things are worth doing, and uncomfortable conversations about mental health and even suicide need to happen. We have to make the conversations about mental health and suicide safe to have, so if someone needs it, they can feel they are able to have it - the alternative is never having the chance to have the conversation.
The presentation by Didi Hirch was given with care, compassion, and it was surprisingly uplifting. I whole heartedly encourage people to explore getting training in suicide prevention, and/or to encourage awareness and discussion in your peer and professional groups. It's important. Didi Hirch offer sessions, but I suspect there will be similar organizations locally to you - check them out.
It was an extremely thought provoking presentation. Both around the topic of suicide, which is one we need to talk more about. The quote stuck with me.
The wider application?
The quote is broad, it is presented in the context of empathy and mental health - but I wondered, does this apply more widely? Can it apply to problem-solving in general, to software development to business processes? Is this a general rule to live by? Perhaps.
As an optimistic and enthusiastic technologist, I find myself frequently slipping into "solution mode", sometimes earlier than I should, be that at work or in my personal life. This quote reminded me of that tendency, but also posed a radical alternative - that a response is actually not what you need. A solution isn't what you need. You need to empathize, to connect. That is the basis of any future solution.
When I find myself slipping into solutions mode, I catch myself, I pause, I listen, I ask questions, I give space - but the end goal is still the same, the solution. The quote offers an alternative, the goal isn't to find a solution, the goal is to find the connection. The solution is a by-product.
Empathy and connection should be the root of good problem-solving, perhaps that's what Bill Gates meant: