How to Deal with People Who Ask Lots of Questions

Help people who come to you with questions, while protecting your own time and energy.

Stever Robbins
5-minute read
Episode #175

A technology author wrote in: “How do I handle incompetent people? They ask simple questions they could answer themselves. I get calls/emails/etc. from co-workers and readers. I want to be polite, but telling someone how to click the mouse on an OK button is a waste of my time. I answer one question and they bombard me with more. Is this just the price of "fame" or is there something I can do? Signed, Don't want to be a cranky tech author.

How to Deal with People Who Ask Lots of Questions

Hey, Cranky, I've had this problem, too. At my first job after college, I was the most junior person at the company, though I was apparently the only one who could read. People would drop my by office asking "How do I print a file?" Rolling my eyes and sticking out my tongue would not have been good for my career, so I had to answer. Again and again and again.

How to Get Incompetent People to Solve Their Own Problems

Finally I hit on a solution. People would come into my office and ask the question. I'd pretend to be so busy I couldn’t even turn around. I’d just say over my shoulder, "Grab that yellow book on the shelf. No, not that one. The other one. That's right. Now, open it to the back. There's an index there. Have you found it? Great! Can you look up “print’ for me? You found it? Great. There should be a page number. Go to that page. Are you there? Great. Read that page. Have you done that? Great. What did it say?" They would tell me what it said. I would then smile and say, "That sounds like a swell idea. Why not try that?"

I would do this as the soul of politeness and never, ever point out I was teaching them to read the manual. And the phrase "you lazy ninny-poop" never even crossed my mind.

With today's technology, it's even easier. You just have to help them launch a help file and search for their solution. Or even better, send them to Google.

Let Me Google That For You

But don't just tell them to use Google. Visit http://lmgtfy.com, which stands for Let Me Google That For You. Type in their question and the site will give you a special URL. Send them that URL and tell them it will lead them to their answer. When they follow the URL, it will cause Google to pop up and then type their question into the search engine for real, all while graciously pointing out to them that they could have done that without sucking up your valuable time and life energy.


About the Author

Stever Robbins

Stever Robbins was the host of the podcast Get-it-Done Guy from 2007 to 2019. He is a graduate of W. Edward Deming’s Total Quality Management training program and a Certified Master Trainer Elite of NLP. He holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a BS in Computer Sciences from MIT.