I’m in the midst of a 10 Weeks of Technology Blog Tour, writing on a wide range of subjects related to technology. I’m especially focusing on problems people have with technology and suggesting ways to overcome them. I realized just the other day, though, how easy it is to trip over our own human frailties in trying to help others. Do you ever have trouble with these, whether technology-related or not?
My friend, whom I’ll call Gwenaëlle*, is putting together a virtual blog tour for her book, and she wanted confirmation that she had it right. She was doing some written blog posts and some audio interviews. She asked, “Do my interviews count in that as well or is that a separate deal? Can we combine them into one to keep it simple?” I responded, in what I thought was a straightforward answer, “I would think if you've already got interviews, use them as blog posts. That would make it much easier.” But Gwenaëlle said, “Okay, I’m confused. When Imelda interviewed me I thought it was for the virtual book tour. Same with my blog for Svea. The interview with Mattie Hunfrid was also about the book... so...?” Her next question showed that I was missing her point. “So it doesn’t matter if it is either a blog or an audio?”
Instead of clarifying by the explanations I used, I made it more confusing for her. It’s easier to see in retrospect, but when we use an informal method (such as Facebook Chat, which was what I used here), it’s easy to just type in the first words that come to mind. The shorthand that works in my head doesn’t work for the person who’s confused. If I’d understood right away that she was confused about using audio files in the same way as a typical written blog post, I could have been more precise in my wording.
When helping explain something to someone else, whether technology-related or not, I’m prevented from completely understanding because of the way my head is wired. The key to this issue is the phrase, “It never occurred to me that...” If I’m helping my friend Gwenaëlle in the example above, the unspoken phrase is “It never occurred to me that she didn’t know that a blog post could be an audio file as well as a written file.” Because it didn’t even enter my thinking, I phrased my responses in a way that just confused her.
When helping someone with a problem, we would do well to step back and examine our mental blocks, so that the answer becomes about their needs rather than our limitations. What is it that prevents me from seeing why the other person is asking for help? What looks like a big wall may just be a block we can easily shove out of the way to see clearly the other’s needs. Whether a mote or a beam, it’s still an obstruction. This topic goes hand in hand with the next one.
When I responded to my friend’s question, not only did I have a mental block and phrased my answer imprecisely, I made an erroneous assumption that, because she recorded those interviews, she knew as much as I did on the subject. Giving the other person the benefit of the doubt is important, but when I assume too much, I make the assistance about what’s convenient to me rather than what’s helpful to her.
BiographyDonna K. Fitch, Master of Library Science, Master’s Certificate in Web Design and Development, is the founder and CEO of Maximum Author Impact, creating beautiful WordPress websites, training webinars and other resources for indie authors. She is the independent author of Second Death, The Source of Lightning, and The Color of Darkness and Other Stories, and a member of the Alexandria Publishing Group, aimed at raising the level of professionalism among indie authors. In her day job, she is the digital communication specialist in the office of marketing and communication at Samford University in Birmingham, Alabama, USA.