The Pause

I would like to remind people involved in testing that—after an engaged brain—one of our most useful testing tools is… the pause.

A pause is precisely the effect delivered by the application of four little words: Huh? Really? And? So? Each word prompts a pause, a little breathing space in which questions oriented towards critical thinking have time to come to mind.

  • Wait…huh? Did I hear that properly? Does it mean what I think it means?
  • Um…Really? Does that match with my experience and understanding of the world as it is, or how it might be? What are some plausible alternative interpretations for what I’ve just heard or read? How might we be fooled by it?
  • Just a sec… And? What additional information might be missing? What other meanings could I infer?
  • Okay…So? What are some consequences or ramifications of those interpretations? What might follow? What do we do—or say, or ask—next?

Those four words nestle nicely between the four elements of the Satir Interaction Model—Intake (huh?), Meaning (really? and?), Significance (so?), and Response.

We recently added “And” to the earlier set of “Huh? Really? So?” upon which James Bach elaborates here.

5 replies to “The Pause”

  1. First thanks for a good post – I use H/R/S a lot and I still skim over unwritten/unspoken premises. I’ll embrace the pause more!


    “We recently added “And” to the earlier set of “Huh? Really? So?” upon which James Bach elaborates here.”

    *pause*… really? Does the article expand on “And?” specifically, or is it in reference to the fact that the cereal isn’t actually cereal (I use an “I’m not sure I believe you” heuristic for this)?

    Michael replies: The prepositional phrase (“upon which James…”) modifies the preceding noun (“set”). In other words, James expounds on “Huh? Really? So?”, rather than on “And”.

  2. Another type of pausing in testing is “Tea testing”. Once in a while, when you are in the middle of something, stop and take a cup of tea.

    There is (apart from the cognitive advantages of pausing mentions above) actually a technical side to this, too. The time it takes to make a cup of tea is in between a “short” timeout and a “long” timeout, so you may may catch problems that are due to different timeouts on different systems. I myself experienced this once: that being away from the computer for a short while, the DB-connection had timed out, but the GUI/Web/JSON had not, giving errors that would not have appeared naturally otherwise. Shortly after, I learned that other people had “invented” tea testing for this purpose (and because of the cognitive advantages of drinking tea).

    Michael replies: An excellent point. Thank you!


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