Talk tech to technophobes--Jasmine's Tech Dos & Don'ts

Get schooled by CNET editor Jasmine France. This week: talking tech with Luddites.

Jasmine France Former Editor
3 min read

Jasmine's tech dos and don'ts

Logic dictates that if you're reading this article on CNET, you're probably quite tech savvy. Indeed, our research indicates that your close friends and family often turn to you specifically for advice on all things gadget-related. Though some of these people may have a general understanding of tech, others are no doubt complete Luddites, which for our intents refers to the more general description of a person who is resistant to or lacks an understanding of modern technology.

If you're a technophile, dealing with a Luddite can be a frustrating business. Whether you're just trying to explain the basic premise of a device or more sweepingly defending your gadget addiction, these dealings can get a bit hairy. That's where I come in. As both a tech editor and a daughter of a technologically inept individual, I have plenty of experience in this area. This combined with insights from fellow techies has led to the tips below.

I know it's tough sometimes, but DON'T be condescending when attempting to explain a new gadget to someone who's unfamiliar with it. Just because a person doesn't comprehend the seemingly obvious functions of the latest tech toy doesn't necessarily mean he or she is an idiot (though it is certainly possible in some cases).

Talking down to someone isn't a requirement when offering explanation or instruction. Chances are, the person already feels a bit foolish for asking simple questions. I can't begin to tell you how many e-mails I've received from readers that start with the phrase, "I know this is a dumb question, but..." Frankly, none of the messages that started out that way contained true stupidity; rather, they comprised a lack of knowledge and a genuine desire to gain it. DO give credit to a person who is seeking to learn something new--it's a wonderful thing.

Also, when you're trying to explain basic usability or functionality of a gadget to someone who's just not getting it, DO consider using some good, old-fashioned analogy. Although not everyone's brain is quick to grasp technical details, there's probably something that works in a similar way that is easier for the person to understand. For example, one might compare a high-tech component like a hard drive to a relatively low-tech device like a record player. Still not getting the point across? DON'T be afraid to pass the buck to a how-to on a tech site (ahem, I know of a great one) or an extraordinarily descriptive written explanation (Wikipedia, anyone?).

If the mountain you're trying to conquer is getting a technology-adverse loved-one to fully understand your gadget addiction, well...you're out of luck. Kidding! There is some hope. DO compare your obsession with one that they might have for oh, say, Japanese dolls from the Edo period. I had to use this tactic when my movie buff colleague couldn't come to grips with the fact that I hadn't been to a movie in theaters in months. My particular compulsion is trying new restaurants; once that comparison was brought up, an immediate light went on.

Got any Luddite communication tips of your own? As always, I invite you to share them below!

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