If you know someone who would benefit from embracing a new technology but seems strangely resistant, here are four important techniques to try.
1. Help them overcome fear.
Resistance is usually due to fear (though it can also be because someone doesn’t see any need for or value in the technology). Like I’ve said previously, you need to show them that fear is normal, that many people have such fears, and that most have overcome them with great success. (Bill Sleepers has a great success story resulting from the determination to “push in.”) Making a logical or legal argument won’t help; newcomers want emotional support. Knowing that experimentation and even failure is okay helps disarm the fright.
2. Help them understand.
People won’t trust magic, but not everyone wants the full tour of all facets of a technology. Tailor your explanations to the point they’re comfortable and don’t give them more at that point. They might be ready for more depth later, but restrain yourself in the near term for their own good.
Help them picture it. Help them see where they fit in the picture. Help them relate. See 4 Quick Tips for Explaining Tech to Parents (and Other Non-techies) for some additional ideas.
3. Help them own their experience.
At some point, each new adopter must make the decision to take their own steps. Let them fly on their own. Hand-holding may be a great way to start, but you don’t want to become a crutch that cripples a newcomer’s ability to blossom into a self-sufficient user.
Remember, everyone’s needs aren’t the same. That means their needs and uses for a technology may differ from yours. Not everyone needs the most sophisticated firewall and anti-virus software. Remember that just because you embrace certain technologies, they may want a different depth in how and what they embrace. Some people don’t want to have a Facebook account. Some people don’t like text messaging. Some don’t want to try to make a video akin to a major motion pictures with their new video editing software; they might just want to add music and titles to a few photos and video clips.
If you can take a skeptic to the point they’re no longer afraid and understand the technology enough to make the choice to embrace it, you then have to be willing to let go a little bit so that they can decide for themselves how to integrate the technology into their life.
4. Encourage them to keep learning.
Technology keeps moving, and especially for some older adopters, the pace will be unexpected. Again, they might not need to hang on every tech announcement, but they’ll need to know that what they’ve chosen to embrace will continue to evolve and may eventually morph into something else entirely. These are hard lessons for newcomers, but that shock can be mitigated by preparing them for the need to continue learning and growing with the technology marketplace.
The above four were the fundamental tenants upon which my book (The Ultimate PC Primer: 15 Simple Lessons for Understanding Personal Computers) was written, intended to help newcomers — scared, skeptical, and stubborn — learn to understand and embrace personal computing. However, these four techniques can be applied to any technology and used with newcomers of all ages.