Talking to the Rubber Duck

How many times have we gone through explaining a problem to a friend, and before he could say a word about it we had already figured out the solution by ourselves? The very act of explaining a problem out loud can, by itself, be enough to solve it.


This techique of problem solving is called “Rubber Ducking” (popularized by the book The Pragmatic Programmer, a must-read for software developers), because it doesn’t matter much what we’re talking to, it’s the talking that matters.

It works because in order to explain something to somebody, we have to think about it and structure our understanding. The other person nodding encourages us to keep talking. Their not talking allows our thoughts to proceed uninterrupted.

Explaining our problem out loud is often enough to shake things loose in our brain, expose bad assumptions, and cause us to see things in a new way.

Speaking out loud activates parts of your brain not accessed when we simply think. And the act of explaining something gets us thinking in ways we might never have reached if we hadn’t tried to talk through it.

Summing-up: There is usually no better way to learn than if we try to help someone else understand the thing we’re still working on. Putting our problem in words will tremendously help us grasp it; language is not only a tool of communication, but also a tool of thought.

These notes have been taken from:


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