XY Problem

You want to do X, and you think Y is the best way of doing so.

Instead of asking about X, you ask about Y.

Someone tries to help you with Y, but is confused because it seems like a strange problem to solve.

After a lot of time wasted, it becomes clear that the user really needs help with X, and Y was a dead end.

This is the XY problem.

It leads to an huge amount of wasted time and energy on both parties.

How to avoid it?

  • always include information about a broader picture. Why are you doing this?
  • provide details if someone asks for more information
  • share what you've tried and solutions that you have ruled out, it gives more information about your requirements.

More tips on how to ask questions the smart way.