Confused by Technology? 3 Keys to Communicating With Your Grandkids

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Have you ever felt intimidated or confused when a someone bragged about restoring wireless connectivity by rebooting the router? Wondered how in the world your grandson set up that printer over bluetooth? It seems like the vocabulary and even perceived social superiority that comes with technological skills are drowning out the older generations.

Are you doomed to feeling stupid and frustrated around tech savvy people? The short answer: No! It’s a bit like learning a second language, but becoming technology-literate doesn’t have to be that overwhelming. With some help, you can get comfortable with the vocabulary and terms. And with the right approach and good questions, you’ll gain an understanding and learn to communicate with anyone about tech!

Key No. 1: Don’t Sell Yourself Short – You’re Not as Lost as You Feel

Woman stressed and frustrated at her laptop
Photo by Elisa Ventur on Unsplash

Like any specific trade or skill, modern technology has its own unique vocabulary and descriptive phrases. It helps to remember that “IT” (Information Technology, pronounced eye-tee) is really a term for the professional world, not home computing. It’s a word for enormous companies that host the internet, securing and sharing more data than we can imagine.

At the other end of the scale, IT is necessary for small businesses who rent office equipment. They have technicians on call to do routine maintenance and keep up the anti-virus software. If you understand the basic outline of how digital information is created, stored, shared and secured, you’re in good shape in the modern world.

When you make Excel spreadsheets on your home computer, or upload photos from your smartphone, you’re using software crucial to IT. Computers and memory banks save that information or pass it on. We all know that there isn’t really a “cloud” holding uploaded information… Cloud computing relies on climate-controlled buildings housing vast stretches of information storing technology.

Finally, you get to smart programmers writing encryption codes to keep it all secret. Other programmers try to hack in and break those codes and steal sensitive information. That’s the cybersecurity field. Over the last decade, cyber warfare has become a household word. It all relies on the strengths and weaknesses of IT, which always comes back to the people who develop and maintain it.

The hardware side of the business involves understanding the guts of the machinery. Do you want to earn the undying gratitude of your technology loving kids or grandchildren? Give them your old, dead computers or laptops to dissect. It will be fun and necessary hands-on experience no matter what part of the IT world they may want to specialize in.

A little knowledge and a touch of humor will help you talk to people who enjoy using technology. Communication becomes easier if you have confidence in yourself and your own experience and abilities, no matter how analogue they may be. Learning how technology overlaps with the skills you already have will make it less daunting!

Key No. 2: See Past the Marketing Jargon – Technology is Not Inherently Wonderful

People working at a table on laptops and cellphones
Photo by Marvin Meyer on Unsplash

Remember that modern technology encompasses many growing fields that represent an incredible amount of money. Making things simple and streamlined for the consumer isn’t necessarily the most profitable option. You might be surprised by how many different programs, apps and devices you need to accomplish one project. Sadly, that doesn’t change much when you become technically adept. If that’s normal, why is it still so frustrating?

When a program or device doesn’t respond as you expect, it seems illogical. This can be upsetting. After all, it’s marketed as “intuitive” because it’s so easy to use! Unfortunately, technology simply isn’t intuitive for everyone. It is not inherently clever or able to guess what you personally need; it needs to be programmed. If you don’t think the same way the programmers think, you’ll hit frustrating walls.

Branding an app or program as “intuitive” is a convincing and effective piece of marketing jargon, but that’s all it is. Try to see it in that light and you’ll be instantly less confused and frustrated. You’ll be able to stop fighting with technology and begin adjusting. In time, you’ll learn to predict the programming, as you would guess at grammar in a foreign language. Remember, there’s nothing wrong with you or your devices, you just think differently!

Young people who are pursuing a career in IT will need help to see through this marketing ploy as well. They’ll be able to communicate better on the job if they learn to think outside the programming box. The ability to clearly explain what they’re working on, instead of believing technology should make sense to everyone, is a huge asset.

Your journey to computer literacy could include helping kids and grandkids prepare for class presentations or job interviews. If they understand their subject well enough to explain it simply, professors and employers will be impressed. They’ll also be in a better position to develop programs that are genuinely easy to use. Young professionals who are confident, kind and good team players are refreshing and in demand.

Key No. 3: When Unsure, Ask for Help- Good Questions Make You Look Smarter

Code on a laptop screen
Photo by Luca Bravo on Unsplash

IT is a fast-developing field, with students pursuing a variety of computer science degrees. Everyone has gaps in their knowledge and experience, so revealing a level of technological ignorance by asking questions is not shameful. It will help you gradually expand your technical vocabulary and improve your ability to work with others.

When a conversation becomes too technical for you, it’s hard to know what questions to ask. If you feel lost, it’s natural to become overwhelmed or even defensive. A good plan will help you stay calm. You may feel it’s not appropriate to ask a basic question like: “What does that mean?” A less specific approach is often easier to master and less humiliating.

Try saying something like: “That sounds interesting. Tell me about it.” This neutral phrase is not challenging. It is especially effective for colleagues you find difficult to communicate with or highly sensitive. Once you’re talking, you will be able to ask further questions naturally during the conversation.

Another way to ask questions is to type them into an online search engine. You can Google words you aren’t familiar with or watch explanatory videos. When you encounter a new device or software, read the manuals and FAQs. This may seem simplistic but doing your own homework will be worth it. You may still have questions, and with some research you’ll be in a better position to understand the answers.

Boy using iPad with headphones on
Photo by Emily Wade on Unsplash

Young people want you to be excited for them and supportive of their career choices, so they’ll probably be easier to talk to. Children often hunger for adults to ask them questions and care about what’s important to them. It’s not too late to learn some basic vocabulary and open up the lines of communication in your family.

With some self-confidence and humor, you can get away from feeling intimidated by technology-savvy people. Computing is a useful, necessary tool of the professional and personal world. It doesn’t have to feel intuitive. Cultivate the ability to ask questions and be willing to learn. You’ll never regret having better conversations with the grandchildren over the things they love!

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