GRAND Magazine - March/April 2019 - 14
Ethnography and the single person focus
Being the curious researcher I am, I had to know. Is it indeed an age
thing, as in "they think I'm too old to know?" Or is it gender based,
as in "mansplaining?" Two men acting under the assumption that a
woman is technologically inferior and needs it to be explained? So I
started watching more closely.
I asked a young man at a wedding I attended. "Is this a thing? Do
millennials grab each other's phones without asking, to show them
how to use it?"
"I hate that!" he declared. "My girlfriend always does that. I would
never do it. That's someone's property!" And with one person both
my age and gender theories were debunked.
Next I tried ethnography. I witnessed a 50-something marketing
consultant (*cough*me*cough*) working with a client who was more
than 30 years older than she. They were trying to fix something with
his email. As he scrolled up and down she reached out, intending to
be helpful, touching his computer screen. "There it is," she said cheerily. "I know," he answered, not so cheerily.
Oops. After a moment of self-reflection, she realized she'd just
done the same thing to her client that the other younger "helpers"
had done to her.
Unsolicited jumping in for an unneeded, unappreciated rescue.
Conclusion: Patience is still a virtue
The common characteristic in all of these cases may just be patience,
as in the patience level of the person initiating the offense.
This entire experience reminds me of Eleanor Roosevelt's quote,
"You wouldn't worry so much about what others think of you if you
realized how seldom they do." In other words, this isn't about us, it's
I shouldn't have assumed they were making judgments about my
abilities based on my age, gender, or otherwise. It's possible they
were just being impatient, and could have reacted the same way no
MARCH APRIL 2019
matter who it was.
So can the patient and the impatient live in harmony? Sure they
can, at least when it comes to cell phones. Here are some friendly
etiquette suggestions to coexist:
Instead of asserting your expertise, politely ask "Do you need
help with that?" or "May I show you that on your phone?"
Give them a second chance (aka wait to be
If someone doesn't get it right the first time, give them a minute to
try again before you jump in. Seriously, if someone puts the wrong
end of their card into the chip reader, they likely just pulled it out of
their wallet and didn't look first. There's no need to snatch the card
out of their hand and put it into the chip reader for them (I'm looking at you, Mr. Liquor Store Clerk).
Own your temperament
For those who are impatient: If someone is simply too slow for your
patience, admit that you're not the most patient person. Adding a
little self-deprecating humor works wonders in dissolving the opportunity for them to take offense. Honesty is the best policy (and it's
certainly better than being rude).
Be open to learning something new
On the flip side, if someone tries to help you, feel free to say "thanks
so much for being helpful, but I'll do it." Another approach is to let
them know it's more helpful if they show you, rather than doing it
for you, so that you learn for next time.
And always be open to learning something new. As Ralph Waldo
Emerson said, "In my walks, every man I meet is my superior in some
way, and in that I learn from him."
Hmmm...I wonder what he said when he met a woman.
Deanna Shoss is a marketer, writer,
interculturalist in Chicago. As President and
CEO of Intercultural Talk, Inc. she provides
digital, intercultural and real life marketing
for entrepreneurs and people following
their passions post age 50, who need
strategy and know-how to adapt to new
GRAND Magazine - March/April 2019
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