This being Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I wanted to write about a topic I’ll encounter occasionally, and one the really sets the “good” people apart from the rest. While I’ll mainly be focusing on how this relates to a professional environment, it’s much more widely applicable than that, and I think it encapsulates some of the ideas that he spoke about, mainly, respect toward others.
We as technology professionals tend to get wrapped up in our work. We must learn the minutia of how something works before we can either build or fix it. There’s a level of precision that doesn’t allow for deviation in thought, verbiage, or comprehension.
Especially over the past year, I’ve had people frequently tell me they’re computer illiterate.
I dig it and I tell them that.
Don’t worry! Don’t be ashamed! Let’s collaborate, let’s learn, and let’s sort out this business!
If I can make some broad statements here, the people that I’ve met that complain about their customers ignorance are also the same people that are also just a little difficult to be around. They judge others for what they’re not. They hold themselves to be superior because of the knowledge they have. They are often wrong and it’s always someone else’s fault. Yet the people that don’t hold onto that sense of superiority are the ones that are generally easier to get along with and better at their work.
If aggressive behavior issues are not a factor, which is simply a matter of discussing the issue neutrally with management, then what’s left when you interact with a customer that might be “computer illiterate” is an opportunity to step outside your comfort zone and learn more about the world.
I’ll tell people “if you sat me down at your chair for five minutes, I’d be lost.” I’m genuinely curious about what people do. I’ve met some really interesting people that are just a little shy when it comes to technology and are able to understand what’s going on once I translate this technobabble into something they understand. That sort of mindful empathy is built on an enormous respect for others that don’t quite think or act or look quite like me.
At one point, I had a long beard that was right on the edge of being unruly, and during that time, and even now, I’d tell people “just look at me, I don’t judge people based on what they know or what they look like, but rather on how they act.”
It’s hard, and bias will naturally creep in, so that’s when you march forward and just accept the other person at face value. That’s what I like about working in bigger cities. There’s more diversity. You can meet new people all the time that can really enjoy what you’re all about or encourage you to develop your positive contributions. You just come as you are. You’ll naturally build friendships based on common interests or traits.
Diversity is about reaching common ground.