Keeping your cool by not being yourself
© 2013 Stan Yack

I use computers a lot, so I encounter a lot of computer misbehavior. My attempts to fix or bypass those problems often cause me stress, as my academic and professional training to be an objective, systematic problem solver is overwhelmed by my emotions. I always seem to take it personally, thinking "Why are they treating me so badly? I deserve better!". Fortunately, my professional work as a demystifier has had the unexpected benefit of reducing that reaction. Now when I encounter a computer failure, I try to pretend that I am helping someone else. I began to do that after I noticed that when I was actually helping someone else with a computer problem I was objective in every aspect of my interactions with other people, including my communication of technical details. Pretending to be acting as a consultant improves my emotional well-being, and by keeping me on track reduces the time to fix problems.

If you find yourself gritting your teeth and repressing insults when you're trying to resolve some computer problem, I recommend that you use a role-playing technique. Even if you've never been a computer consultant, and you can't imagine yourself ever giving anyone advice on computers, you should put on an imaginary computer consultant's cloak and pretend that you've been hired to mediate between a troubled client (you) and the suppliers and providers whose job it is to help you. As it does for me, wearing a magic consulting cloak will repress your emotions, and your more objective attitude will help you describe problems more clearly, listen to feedback more attentively, decide which suggestions merit your attention, follow instructions carefully, be alert for new information, ...

You won't always succeed, and sometimes you'll have to refund your consulting fee (to yourself), because sometimes when computers fail there's nothing anyone can do about it. But when you reach a dead-end, you don't have to take that failure personally, or consider it to be permanent. Just clock out from the consulting project, with the intent of returning to the problem at a later time. Make yourself a cup of coffee, watch some TV, walk the dog, swim a few lengths of the pool, ... Your life will be more pleasant, as will that of your friends and family, and you will probably live longer.

Click here to learn how I've helped others.

Stan Yack
Instructional Designer and Softsmith