why not to say “it’s easy”; 8 interpretations

I recently took the AWS Practitioner test. When speaking to a number of people who took the exam before me, I heard a lot of “it’s easy.” That simple phrase doesn’t convey much information and has the potential to make people feel bad.

Curious why? Keep reading for the many possible interpretations of “it’s easy”. I’m writing this in the context of a test, but it applies to tasks and skills as well. For example, I find coding “easy”, but many people do not.

Option 1: “It’s Easy; the test covered things I knew”

If someone doesn’t know the material already, he/she will have to study. Which means work and not “easy”.

Option 2: “It’s Easy; there were no trick questions”

Having straightforward questions is definitely easier than trick questions! Saying that conveys more information than “it’s easy”

Option 3: “It’s Easy; the test covered what I studied”

Without knowing what you studied, the listener isn’t likely to have the same experience.

Option 4: “It’s Easy; it’s not technical”

In the case of the AWS Practitioner exam, target candidates include technologists, sales and finance. This means there is a limit to how technical the questions can be. Personally, I like technical questions so non-technical questions aren’t necessarily easier.

Option 5: “It’s Easy; it was mostly memorization”

People vary extensively in their memorization skills. I’m not good at memorizing facts. Understanding things is something I’m good at. Retaining information in a context is also something I’m good at. Remembering random facts, not so much. Which means I’m going to find an exam that focuses on memorization far harder than one that involves coding and rules like the Java certification.

Option 6: “It’s Easy; I forgot how hard it was”

People frequently forget how difficult something seems before they understand or know it. For example, I bet you find it easy to tie your shoes. Now go find a four year old and see if that child finds it easy. This means that an exam is likely to seem easier after the fact. (I *so* wanted to say “it’s easy to forget how difficult…”)

As an author, we constantly need to fight this reason for “it’s easy.” Our readers are unlikely to think everything is easy. We have to remember what it is like to not yet understand the concept.

Option 7: “It’s Easy; I passed”

Sometimes people think that if they can do something, everyone can. Sometimes it comes from how the person views themselves and sometimes from other things. But most exams are set up so not everyone passes. Which doesn’t mean it is “easy” if you passed.

Option 8: “It’s Easy; I want to be seen as smart/knowledgeable”

Sometimes people say something was easy when the person thinks it is hard. The idea is to seem smarter/more knowledgable/more clever in front of others. Like a form of boasting. “Oh, you thought that was hard? I thought it was easy”

In conclusion

There’s at least eight interpretations for what “it’s easy” could mean. So they next time someone asks you how an exam/task/etc is, use more than two words! Conveying actual information will help the person asking. And it will avoid the person feeling bad if it isn’t easy for that individual!

deep listening: creating conversational agility

Deep Listening: Creating Conversational Agility
Speaker: Brian Branagan

See the list of all blog posts from the conference

Reasons we don’t listen

  • Want to speak
  • Overwhelmed by details
  • Bored

Statistic: a third of projects fail because of poor communication and ineffective listening

Project failure lingers as a source of agitation even when move on to other projects. Like a low priority background process

Need to improve outcome of conversations to have better outomes. 93% of what we comunicate is from body, emotions in tone of voice/body language. Only 7% is words.

Layers of Deep Listening
Each layer contributes to the layer above it. A shift in one layer changes the others

  1. Our speaking – the actual words. Coordinates actions with other people. Includes opinions, facts, requests, commitments. Types include transactional (ask/tell), positional (advoicate from a role), transformation (share a vision)
  2. Our emotions – expressed in voice and body language. Emotions begin as biological responses to circumstances. This is why sometimes was experiences before know why. Body pattern matches for a similar emotional signature. This makes us upset based on past occurences. Predisposes us for certain kinds of action. Four basic emotions: fear, anger, sad, glad
  3. Our body – generates sensations and energy. Our way of interacting with the world around us. Informs us about threats to our safety. Fight reaction. Helps identify friends/foes and lets us know how to fit in

Conversational agility is moving from “me” to “we”. It’s havig two people who can listen.

Most important thing is to pause and ground yourself – when upset, grounded, etc. Wiggle your toes to feel the ground and relax. Watch your breathing rate.

practical empathy – live blogging from qcon

Practical Empathy: unlocking the superpower
Speaker: Pavneet Singh Saund @pavsaund

See the list of all blog posts from the conference

speaker’s blog: http://codingwithempathy.com

Started by telling the story about the guy who broke the prod database on his first day on the job and how it was poorly handled. Compare with speaker mixing up two elements (physics) – asked how was and was told his boss has done that and suggested to go home/rest/come back next day.

What is Empathy

  • Ability to see world as others see it
  • Ability to understand another’s current feelings
  • Witholding judgement
  • Communicate that understanding back to them

Told story about a team deciding to work more hours where they could. Speaker worked as well to keep up. But exhausted becuase little kids and burden on wife. Impacted family and daughter. Burned out and quit for 6 months while on vacation.


  • self-empathy is checking in with your own feelings and needs. Anger is an unfilled need.
  • Mindfulness – non-judgemental awareness of experiences in the present moment. For developers, sometimes a task is hard to start. ex: too big. Taking a few minutes to focus before starting helps. Be more engaged in moment and keep calm
  • Journaling – Writing thoughts and feelings honestly can be healing. Can empty the mind. Agile retrospectives are also a good place for reflection. But that’s for a team. Having a place you can swear provides a safe place to be honest. Also, makes awareness of how much filter own thoughts.


  • Listening to understand – put aside immediate goals. “Don’t just do something, listen”. As developers, our first reaction is to solve problems.
  • Listen withough judgement – Breathe to calm down. Be curious to learn and avoid irritation/frustration of not understanding
  • Assume good intent – “bad” intent could be misunderstanding or language/translation problems. Retrospective prime directive.
  • Listening to connect – Try to connect situtation to a feeling within you. Be curious to try to get to underlying feelings so can relate and understand

Gaining perspective

  • Challenge comfort zones – seek out diferent perspectives, learn about context
  • Walk a mile in their shoes – sit with the users, understand what they are trying to do. Pair with a tester. Work in customer support

“Empathy is the key to understanding”
“Empathy is a skill. You need to actively practice giving and receiving empathy”
“Empathy is hard”

Can’t have empathy in a culture of blame/shame
Empathy is hard. Takes energy and boundaries.
Empathy is a choice. It is a first step toward making more options available