The Second Most-feared Experience (after Giving a Speech in Public)

  As many of our readers know, I belong to a world-wide organization which appeals to those who would prefer having a root canal to giving a speech in public. Recent dialog with a fellow Toastmaster in technical support from New Zealand—and personal experience— leads me to believe that even today there are those who would rather have a root canal than try out a new computer application.

Why is that true?

Many people who entered the workforce in the 1960’s and 1970’s and were forced to use computers they did not understand. Not only did they not receive one on one training but they self-taught themselves the bare minimum keystrokes needed to perform only the functions required to do the job they were hired to do. Supervisors punished employees for exploring alternative ways to learn how to use computers. Technical support staff who were far more interested in shiny new toys than they were in answering the same technical question several times over contributed to growing computer-fearing and computer-hating employees.

There is a fix for this problem—and it has to come from an enlightened technical support community that receives as much praise for learning end-user mentoring as a tool as it does for passing technical exams. Stop reinforcing the geek stereotype that regards users as “stupid people.” They are simply people who don’t push the buttons in just the right order, even though they haven’t been told what that order is. They are afraid of having to admit they don’t instantly know the answer.

Interestingly enough, the Toastmasters International organization is full of people who enjoy mentoring others. I myself benefitted greatly by being mentored in technical services by a Toastmaster who happened to be in technical services. And as my friend from New Zealand said recently, “Simply show they can do it, that they can enjoy doing it – and that if they break it they can get help without judgement. The last is crucial and often needs the personal touch (which way too many in IT are AFRAID to give) – but it is the key to building their confidence. Often you are dealing with adults who are “technical children” – and mentoring is NEVER doing your children’s homework for them, right? But you DO celebrate their successes.”

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Who are your FaceBook Friends?

Writing in All Things D on May 31, Liz Gannes wondered about friending in FaceBook.  Among her worries were that

“One of Facebook’s most fundamental flaws is its notion of friending. Relationships on Facebook don’t naturally expire as they do in the real world. To unfriend is drastic, used only in the direst of circumstances–like a bad breakup.

And the fact that people from so many parts of our lives are on Facebook elicits bland communication. You often don’t really know who you’re talking to, so you stop talking.”

That may be over-stating the case for “”while Facebook might be the hottest game in town, it’s still a pretty warped and inaccurate picture of what it means to have friends. ”

Consider in-person contacts you make, whether pursuing  business contacts or building relationships in small groups of large International organizations.  Or even connecting in interfaith activities. Now consider what attending a large family picnic such as a reunion is like.  In each instance, there will be people you meet and greet as people you have known for a very long time.  In each instance, you will have a different relationship with each person you talk with—or avoid. In each instance, there will be people to whom you say “We have simply got to stop not meeting like this.” And then you keep on not meeting them in person, for one reason or another.  Or there will be people you actually do connect with for a while—and then perhaps ignore until, for one reason or another, they come to your attention again.

It’s not that we  deliberately deceive anyone. It’s that life happens, and without mechanical prompting (such as with a scheduler) we all pay attention to different acquaintances at different times and for different reasons.  With schedulers, we remind ourselves to contact the people who we need to contact.

Her comment that “Relationships on Facebook don’t naturally expire as they do in the real world. To unfriend is drastic, used only in the direst of circumstances–like a bad breakup”  misses a reality.  It is not necessary to unfriend anyone you discover is not really all that interesting for any reason—business or personal. Simply not connecting with them right now gives one the option of re-connecting later on in a friendly way.

Liz, it’s all about our own goals and needs in the big city. The environment is different but the human behaviors are pretty much the same.


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