We’ve all been there: you arrive at your parent’s place for the holidays and then just as you’re trying to get the kinks out from a long flight, you hear, “By the way, my PC’s acting up.” Let’s find out how to handle those requests in a way that leaves everyone happy!
Set Some Boundaries
It’s important to be clear and direct with your family about your boundaries. Let them know that you are willing to help with technology issues, but that you also have other responsibilities and commitments that you need to prioritize.
You can set limits on the amount of time you are available to help with technology issues. For example, you could offer to help for a set amount of time each day or each visit. If you can’t get the fix done in that time frame, it will have to wait.
Make It a Teachable Moment
The worst part of being stuck as the family tech support is that they all go off to eat turkey, drink egg nog, or gripe around the Festivus pole while you’re stuck in a stuffy study expunging the nastiest malware known to man or beast.
If you’re going to do it, make sure you don’t do it alone! Insist you’ll help if the person in question sits with you throughout the entire process, while you explain exactly what you’re doing and why.
Let’s be honest, most troubleshooting these days involves Googling your problem on a smartphone and following a set of instructions, so if you can at least teach someone how to do that, you’re more than halfway there. May we humbly suggest bookmarking this very website on your family member’s browser? They’re in good hands with us, you deserve a break.
Quid Pro Quo
There’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you’re the “tech” person in the family, then the other members must have their own skill sets, right? How about some help with filing your taxes from your accountant aunt? Your dad’s a mechanic, right? A free oil change is definitely worth helping him change his Android font back to something legible.
Give Tech Support Vouchers as Gifts
If your technology skills are being requested during a holiday or observance that involves giving gifts, then you might as well make some of your actual gifts the tech support you were going to provide anyway.
You can either print out your own tech support vouchers or spend real money on buying technical support for someone who needs it. For example, Best Buy has the Totaltech plan at $199.99 a year. A service that provides tech support for any device in someone’s house, no matter where they bought it.
Another angle on this idea is to just buy everyone Dummies guides or something similar. It’s how a lot of us got started in the tech-guru business after all.
Defer Helping Until Later
It’s not that you don’t want to help; it’s just that this is a holiday. You should be relaxing and preparing for another year of fixing your own tech problems. So why not promise to defer your help until after everyone is back on the clock?
These days we have Skype, Zoom, and many other ways to keep in touch and help people out remotely. So make a date for any issues that aren’t mission-critical, but can’t also be sorted out in 30 seconds.
Be Honest If You Don’t Know
At the risk of ruining your reputation as an omniscient tech messiah among friends and family, just say you don’t know how to fix a particular problem. No one can reasonably expect one person to know how to fix every tech problem (well, maybe our editors do sometimes, but we digress), so there’s no shame in pleading ignorance. If it’s going to be something that you have to research at length and spend hours troubleshooting, just let the person understand that just because you know a lot about laptops, doesn’t mean you’re a wizard with smart speakers or Apple TVs!
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