[Applied Psychology] Appeasing the Technojunkies

“Let’s make a list of everything that’s been happening. We’ll iron the issues out one-by-one.” “Let me just tell you the truth. This thing is a piece of…” That’s my cue that the issue is not technical. We aren’t troubleshooting a technical issue, per se, instead I’ve stepped into the role of therapist helping ease the technojunkie’s technological anxiety. Without getting into specifics, here are five strategies I’ve used to talk people off their cliffs.

Empathize With Situation
I get stressed out when I’m dealing with something I don’t understand. It happens to all of us. Logically, it’s just a matter of gathering more information. Emotionally, there’s a feeling of failure that washes over me when I can’t figure something out. When I reach out for help, it’s because reached my limit and am still missing something that I can’t comprehend, and so I can only assume the same is true for others.

Plainly Develop Plan
Sometimes just starting in a direction is a great way to start. Though it might not help or actually fix the issue, getting traction in any direction is better than sticking around doing nothing, or being trapped by analysis paralysis. When people are stuck in that emotional turmoil, knowing something is being done, even if it’s not “right now” is helpful. Especially when there’s accountability and follow through to drive the issue to its resolution.

Act Quickly, Quietly
If there’s one psychological behavior I’ve encountered consistently over the years, it’s that when someone presents you with an issue, they’re typically too stressed to register how you’re resolving the issue. Most are interested in a pithy summary of the fix, translated into language they understand, unless it’s important to relay jargon. Few want narration. When I get into a troubleshooting mindset, I forget about the world, which invites them to forget about the issue.

Stick With It
You’re not going to fix everything right away. You’ll have to revisit some issues multiple times from multiple angles. If it’s embarrassing for you in your field – technical support, programming, car repair, plumbing, electrical, or any field really – just remember that they’re more embarrassed for needing to ask. If you reach a point where you’re stumped, most people appreciate knowing the current state along with follow-up expectations, because everyone appreciates when an issue is fixed.

Respect and Dignity
This accelerated my career: I don’t care if you’re computer illiterate. I don’t make jokes behind people’s backs when they tell me about their Windows 6 issues. I ask them to explain. While we translate each other’s thoughts to arrive at a technical pidgin language, I remind people “if you put me in your job, I’d probably fail at first.” There’s a sign that hangs above my office door, JUDGMENT-FREE ZONE, to remind me of humility.

The Final Result
When you’ve done it correctly, you’re a hero, rockstar, guru, and you might even have a new friend. “This was exactly what needed to happen. Everything is back to normal. Thank you.”

My big goal is writing. My most important goal is writing "The Story." All other goals should work toward that central goal. My proudest moment is the most recent time I overcame some fear, which should have been today. I'm a better zombie than I was yesterday. I'm not better than you and you're not better than me. Let's strive to be better every day.