Note: This article is updated at How Might That Be True?
It's obvious in retrospect, but I found a distinction between low-friction communication and high-friction communication. By low-friction, I mean *person A* doesn't have to work that hard for *person B* to get a point.
I find low friction scenarios are often cases where *person B* starts with the mind-set "how might that be true" and they help *person A* tease out, or make their point. The starting point is collaboration -- two people working to understand the message. I find high-friction scenarios are often cases where *person B* starts with the mind-set "let me tell you how you're wrong."
It's really easy among a bunch of engineers to rip ideas apart. The trick I found is to first ask, "how might that be true?" This gets over the potential hump that maybe while the delivery was off, there was merit in the message (or a concept needs help to be teased out) and it certainly builds more rapport than starting off as a devil's advocate.