This is a popular phrase from the opening to most of the old TV drama “Nip/Tuck”. The plastic surgeons meet a prospective patient and ask something along the lines of “So, what do you not like about yourself?”
It’s a pretty powerful question, because plastic surgery isn’t so much about how the outside world views the person, it’s how the procedure makes them feel about themselves that truly matters. When someone is wanting your help with their computer, before you rule on (or assume) what they “need”, first give them the courtesy and opportunity to explain what they “think” they need. Far too many times you may find yourself “helping” people with shortcuts, optimizations, techniques, tutorials, bug fixes and software updates when they wanted none of it. Did they still “need” it? That’s debatable. Many times the “fixes” ended up causing new issues, additional reliance on IT support, and no perceivable improvement in their quality of life. When you hear “my computer is too slow” you hear: “I need a faster computer”. Or perhaps they mean ” “I hate this computer” or maybe they mean “Can you optimize my computer?”
Here are some dangerous, ambiguous phrases that require more discussion: This thing has a virus. It stopped working. This has never worked right. I need a new version of the software. I want a new computer. This was working before you [insert the last thing you did on their computer].
Phrases you can use to help clarify:
Can you be more specific? When you say [ ], what are you referring to? What about it makes you feel that way? Are you certain it’s that and not something else perhaps?
You’re an IT professional, not a mindreader. Don’t presume to know what they need based on what they said they want. Ask more questions.