Emotion management when pair programming

Pairing is not just two people working together. Mutual respect, emotion management and other psychological factors come into play. Doing it well takes time, so be patient, repeat it properly until you can reach the “pairing zone”.

Luís Soares
Nov 6, 2018 · 5 min read
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If you don’t understand the advantages of pairing, perhaps you should start with that. Let’s quickly recap them:

  • You’re “forced” to put your thoughts and ideas into concrete words, which contributes to solving problems and helps you consolidating knowledge;

Let’s now go through some tips for the driver (the one writing the code) and the navigator (the one specifying).

Discipline and focus

  • Clear out the assumptions before starting. Make sure you read the user story in detail. Don’t rush to start. Agree on the strategy beforehand (using flowcharts, ‘to do’ lists, mental maps, and other diagrams).

Respect and empathy

  • Ask the driver to think aloud but respect that not everything needs to be put into words. Sometimes, just go along and/or wait for the experiment to finish. Try to follow it but interrupt if you’re lost.
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Emotions

  • Don’t stress if you don’t understand everything, especially when you’re the new guy. Try to help somehow (code contributions aren’t the only contributions). Your mental models will iterate and refine with time.

In the end, if you’re having a lot of effort you may be doing it wrong; or your pair may be making things hard. If that’s the case, ask for a personal feedback session where you clearly state the areas of improvement.

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