Windows and Learned Helplessness

It’s interesting, initially tragic and eventually uplifting, to watch non-technical friends and relatives use Mac after years on Windows.  Like rats who have been shocked at random intervals in the lab, they exhibit persistent learned helplessness at the keyboard, fearing to tread outside the few simple use patterns they are familiar with.  When presented with a new situation, they simply freeze.

But I have developed a solution, one that could only work on Mac.

“How do I get my computer to do X?” I am asked at regular intervals.  If the inquirer is on Windows, I give them a lengthy step-by-step answer, involving 12 levels of nested menus and dialogs, right clicks, genuflecting, etc.

But if they are on Mac, even when I know the answer, I first ask, “What do you wish were the answer to that question? What would be the most logical, dead-simple, effortless answer?  Try that.”  Nine times out of ten, it works.  After this happens a few times, the user is unstuck, and can enjoy computers for the first time.

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