↑ comment by [deleted] ·
2015-07-28T02:30:45.604Z · LW(p) · GW(p)
From my view, it's absolutely a great idea to ask literal-face-value questions. I think we approach the problem from different angles - you're looking to fill in specific holes in your knowledge or reasoning, by generating the perfect question to fill in that hole.
I think that's great when it happens, and I also try to remember that I'm dealing with messy, imperfect, biased, socially evolved humans with HUGE inferential gaps to my understanding of the problem. Given that, my model of getting help with a problem is not Ask great question - get great answer. It usually goes more like this:
-Bring up problem I'm having >they bring up solution I've already tried/discarded (or which isn't actually a solution to my specific problem)> I mention that > they mention some more> this goes back and forth for a while > they mention some new argument or data I hadn't considered > continue some more > at some point one of us is getting bored or we've hashed out everything > move on to another topic.
I find that with this approach, given that I'm asking the right people, I have a high probability of getting new approaches to my problems, altering my existing perspective, and coming closer to a solution. Using this way of approaching advice getting many times gives me a much better understanding of the problem and it's potential solutions, and allows me to cover the full problem space without overwhellmng people or sounding like a know-it-all.
Coming at it from this angle, I think it's a great idea to start with a specific question, and still understand that I may move much closer to having my problem solved, without ever coming close to answering the question as I asked it (although oftentimes, we circle back around to the original question to the end, and I hear a novel answer to it).
With that in mind, there are several things I do when asking advice that I think may be helpful to you (or may not be).
I try not to say "I already thought about that and..." too much, as it ends these conversations before we get to the good stuff. Instead, I ask leading questions that bring people to the same conclusion without me sounding like a know it all.
I remain open to the fact that there might be evidence or arguments I'm not aware of in my basic logic, and therefore remain curious even when we're covering territory that I think I've already covered ad nauseum.
I precommit to trying the best specific solution they offer that I haven't tried, even if I think it has a low probability of success.
I keep them updated on trying their suggested solutions, and express gratitude even if the suggestion doesn't work.
Over the long term, as these relationships build up more, the people you get advice from will get a better idea of how you think, and you're more likely to get the "specific answer to specific question" behavior, but even if you don't, you'll still get valuable feedback that can help you solve the problem.