February 2013

Standing in different shoes and listening

I spoke with the most amazing tech support person yesterday. He works for a company called ZoomText. They make computer magnification aids. Does he know his clientele! 

He quickly figured out that I could see the screen, unlike many of his customers and unlike my father, who is the one I’m optimizing the computer for. He adapted his guidance to my situation.

He didn’t just help me with the problem I called for. He went through my entire computer and changed the settings to work best with ZoomText.

But he didn’t stop there. He also went in and changed settings that add an extra step. These extra steps, like clicking on an icon to get to the homepage instead of the computer opening to it automatically, aren’t that big a deal for those who can see. For low vision users, something that simple can take several minutes. This man talks to low vision users every day, and has become quite aware of what their challenges are.

He told me that Microsoft used to have the low vision settings listed under Accessories. They changed them to Ease of Access. Sounds okay, but having them listed as accessories put them at the top of the menu. It was easy for his clients to find them. Now, they have to scroll through a menu to find the option they want. He knows – that can take quite a while. It appears Microsoft doesn’t know that. (Their magnifier doesn’t work in the high contrast theme, which is the best theme for low vision, so there are other problems with their set-up.)

The process of helping my dad be able to use the computer is a process of listening very carefully. It’s a process of observing what he does. Low vision people get tripped up on snags that others don’t even notice. I stand in his shoes and I listen.

It’s also a process of getting conscious about what I actually do when I do a process. I do so much of my computing unconsciously. When I try to explain what I do, I often give incorrect instructions. That can mess a low vision user up quite a bit.

My father remarked on how patient I’ve been with him. We run into one obstacle I never imagined, and we try something else.

But this couldn’t be happening if he wasn’t patient with me. I’ve tried many things that haven’t worked. I think I’ve found the set-up that will. We’ll see.

But it isn’t really about patience. It’s about awareness and love. And that keeps growing.

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It took us 16 years to learn to live with each other and now…

It took us 16 years to learn to live with each other fairly successfully, and now we’re both learning to live with ourselves. We’re listening to ourselves, getting to know our own hearts, quirks and natures.

We’re redesigning our lives based on what we’re learning about who we are—who we really are—not who we think we should be. It’s a bottom up approach—led by observation, experiment and alignment.

We’re learning to:

  • stop putting pressure on ourselves and let ourselves be who we are
  • help ourselves grow
  • support ourselves in achieving our deepest desires
  • bring out the best of who we really are.

It’s humbling at times, but empowering overall.

Perhaps this quest will be fulfilled more quickly than the last one.


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Clarissa’s conversation clues

So much wisdom in Clarissa Pinkola Estes’s audio “How to Become an Elder.”

She speaks of being an aid in an elder home and how visitors would make strained conversation with their family members. But she, a very young woman at the time, and someone who did not know these elders well, would be able to engege them in lively dialog by talking about things she was interested in. She was learning about how Egyptians used to regard cats as gods, and that got some very lively conversations going. Pretty much everyone she spoke with had known a mystical cat in their lifetime.

Actually, that’s my advice for business conversations, too. Usually, sharing what juices you gets great connection going. What do you enjoy talking about? It might result in blank stares, but it sure beats picking a topic because someone thought someone might enjoy talking about it.

I think of my friend Barb who teaches yoga. Everyone enjoys her yoga class. Why? Largely because she does.

Why not?

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“It took a lifetime to learn to love my father”

All her email said was, “It took me a lifetime to learn to love my father.” 

It was a response to yesterday’s post about the first man I ever loved – my Dad.

What powerful words. They were a gift. And I’ll second her confession.

I’m still learning to love him. And my mom has been gone 25 years, and I’m still learning how to love her, too.

My dad is 94 today. Being 94 isn’t all that easy. But it is beautiful to me. And so are the emails from my readers who let me know my words touch them. Thank you. 

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The first man I ever loved

He’s the first man I ever loved. I’m getting to know him better as I try to set him up with a computer system that he can see well enough to fulfill the last of his professional desires. He’s a mathematician and he has an ambitious project that he’d like to complete.

It takes a lot of listening, learning and relating to customize a system for him. And even if the effort fails and we’re forced to accept that his computing days are over, it will have been time very well spent. It’s not a ruse, but at the same time, it kind of is. It’s an activity that allows us to get close enough to be able to share concerns and experiences as he enters his final years.

I’m talking about my dad, of course. Dad commented that my husband is being very generous to let me spend so much time with him.

I told him the truth.

  • Bob (my husband) wishes he still could visit his father, too.

He is the first man I ever loved. He needs to know how important that is. 

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You can learn a lot when you pay attention to what people do, and what they say.

I spent many hours trying to adapt the new touchscreen computer with Windows 8 to work for my low-vision Dad. When his computer tech expert came by to help the process, and she kept getting lost on it, I knew it was too complicated for my 93-year-old visually impaired dad. 

I returned the computer and did something different. I sat with my father as he navigated the computer he has. I noticed where he got tripped up. I showed him some things, and watched how easy and how hard it is for him to apply what I show him. I learned what his unique challenges are.

Then I asked questions. I asked him what features his dream computer would have. I took notes.

And I learned a lot. 

Now I’m in the research stage. I’m learning a lot about how to use computers optimally. And I use them every day. I didn’t know all they could do. 

I’m finding some surprises. The things my father wants—he can have. I had assumed that one of the people he had talked with who knows more about computers than I do would have known what was available—or found out. But apparently they didn’t. And I didn’t either—until now. All those months of struggle with outdated equipment weren’t necessary. 

The next step will be to select a new computer that will suit his actual needs—not the ones I thought he had. Then I’ll set it up to simplify his navigation. Then I’ll teach him ways to use the features.

I’ll be watching him through every step of this process. And I’ll be asking questions. And I’ll be listening very carefully.

You can learn a lot when you pay attention to what people do, and what they say. Why didn’t I think of that sooner? I kind of did. But it didn’t quite reach the conscious, actionable level.

I’m listening now. 

You can learn a lot when you pay attention to what people do, and what they say. Read More »