I began the day with a tech question over text (not my preferred format for those conversations, by the way)—
“Where do I find the invoices for the website?”
Whew! This one’s straightforward enough for texting, so I do. Her reply: “I thought that’s what it was, but I wanted to check.”
I wrapped up in time to drive to my next appointment; Austin traffic being what it is, I spent the 20 minutes mulling over the exchange.
See, back when I learned and earned my tech chops, I lived in an RTFM world. “Read The Fine Manual” was the first answer to any new person’s question—human interaction was saved for subtleties too complex for manuals, or too complex for the Frequently Asked Question lists living next to annoyingly dense manuals. I quickly learned to dig around on my own for a “while”… half-hour, hour, sometimes more…in order to demonstrate my due diligence to the person I approached.
I’ve been acculturated well, I admit. My unvoiced twitch-response to my colleague’s question was: if you knew where it was, why didn’t you look first, rather than asking me?
But sitting in the steel box gave me time to remember that in those days I preferred to learn by sitting next to someone, watching, and asking questions. I took the RTFM approach because I had to.
Asking seems to be a more common approach among female persons: human contact and reassurance first, then make your own attempt. RTFM matches the approach perhaps more common among males: dive in and see how far you get, and after you slam into a wall get help.
I like my comfort with diving in. I like mentoring girls to practice diving in first and finding how far their own brains will take them. I especially celebrate the sense of strength diving in creates: I figured this out on my own. I have resources I can draw on that no one can take away.
Maybe I’ll figure out how to mentor “up” to people older than I am, too.