So stop saying it is.
I was talking with my friend Nathan Bowers (total WordPress consultant to the stars) the other day about how frustrating tech stuff can be for people.
Nathan’s pretty awesome in general but it was especially great the way he — as someone who lives in the tech world — agreed, instead of saying what most tech people say: “But it’s easy”.
Because he’s smart enough to know it isn’t. And I quote:
I wouldn’t dream of saying anybody is dumb for not being immersed in this stuff. Unlike many geeks, I know that technology is hard and most people are barely muddling through. It’s my job (and yours, and anybody who runs a web biz) to make it not hard.
Man, I love that. Because really, there’s nothing more horrible than feeling like a idiot because something is really hard and scary for you — and then having some irritating expert say “No, no, no, actually it’s super-easy”.
You know what else people say is easy? Spanish.
Keep in mind that I used to teach both languages and language-learning, so if I wanted to I could give you the whole “actually all languages are equally hard (or easy)” lecture and quote a bunch of linguists to back me up.
But forget about theory and statistics for a minute. Let’s just talk about me. Because if that isn’t why I have a blog … I don’t know how to finish this sentence but it feels like it should end in an exclamation point!
Here’s me. I’m fully bi-lingual in English and Hebrew. And I speak German well enough that I can deliver a three hour lecture in it without notes. That’s three languages I can read novels in without needing a dictionary. Three languages I can be funny in. Three languages I can insult your mother in.* Okay?
*Four, actually, with Yiddish. Not that I would. Good heavens, no. I’m just establishing credentials here.
But I spent two years trying desperately to learn Spanish while I was at university in Tel Aviv, and can’t remember a thing.
Two years of Spanish? I cannot. Put. Together. A. Sentence.
And it can’t even be blamed on the passage of time, because the truth is, I never got it. Sure, I memorized stuff for exams but did I ever actually understood what the hell was going on? Sadly, no.
Could I learn it now? Sure, but only because I’ve got badass techniques. I could probably learn anything now.
But that’s not the point. The point is: don’t freaking tell me that Spanish is easy. Spanish is not easy. And when you say it is I kinda want to smack you for implying that it must be me who’s a little slow.
Which brings me to the point of this whole mini-rant:
Nothing is easy when you’re the one who can’t do it.
And having someone tell you it’s easy does not make it easier.
No kidding. If anything, having some jerk tell you it’s easy actually makes it harder because now in addition to learning the thing, you’re annoyed that it’s taking so much effort to master something that someone else — usually someone who isn’t even that bright to begin with — is telling you is easy.
Okay, enough with the rant. Let’s talk applications.
So you know how to do things that other people don’t. That’s terrific. Love it. You want to help them. Even better. They want your help. Perfect. But they don’t want to know that you think it’s easy.
Here are three ways you can apply this information to make stuff easier.
Application #1: Talking to people you want to serve.
Yes, this is also known as “marketing”. I know, it needs a better word.
Here’s the thing — telling people that the thing they want and are struggling to get is easy to do or attain — just not smart.
You can promise those people (if it’s true) that your system or method or product or whatever will help make the process easier for them. You can tell them that you will show them short-cuts or tricks that will make the hard more bearable. You can show them how to navigate the hard.
Don’t say “it’s easy if you know how”. People won’t buy stuff when they think that the person selling just doesn’t understand how hard things really are. And if you do think it’s easy, you really aren’t getting what they’re going through.
Application #2: Relationships
If you madly care about someone, and that someone is struggling with something, it’s your job to be there with them in their time of stuckness.
Just show up. Not just because it’s the kind, compassionate golden-rule-ish stand-up thing to do, but because otherwise they won’t listen to you.
Don’t say that it’s easy to quit drinking coffee or to learn how to do taxes or to parallel park. Of course you want to share whatever it is that comes easily to you. You want to share your hard-won knowledge and mad ninja skills.
But if you tell them it’s easy, they won’t be able to receive it.
Acknowledging that it’s hard and that they’re dealing with something that’s a big challenge for them is the only way to go. This is what lets them open up to whatever you know that might make things easier.
This is frustrating and requires loads of patience. I know it’s hard. I love you for trying.
Application #3: Persuasion
Persuasion is a loaded word. I do not mean this in some gross, “convincing other people to do your evil bidding” sort of way.
Think of it as finding a way to help people understand that you have a tool that can actually help make their lives … well … easier.
The answer is the same as in the first two applications. Acknowledge their pain. Feel it. Recognize how big and uncomfortable it is. Meet them where they’re at — in the hard part.
Make sure they know that you know (or remember) how hard it is, and offer help only after you’ve empathized the hell out of their pain. Hmm, poor phrasing, but I think you know what I mean.
You aren’t doing this to be manipulative. You’re doing this to be a mensch. It’s the only way you can really help them. And in their fear and stuck and hard, it’s the only way they can really say “yes” to help from you.
Okay, rant over. Really. I’m willing to try that thing you wanted to show me now.
I don’t even care if it’s hard. Just remember to keep telling me you know it’s hard.