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Firstly, I have a very good relationship with my family and there are no issues on that front. However, due to me working in a technical capacity professionally all of the technical questions / issues come straight to me to sort out. Historically this has included things such as network and printer setup, general phone usage, internet issues etc. The majority of the time I also cannot work to solve these issues without driving over to the old family home and sorting it in person. I have to drive ~20 minutes. This may not seem far, but it's a bit of a pain if these requests are often or I really would rather do something else.

If an issue was trivial enough I would try to explain the solution in a simple and accessible way such that the said family member could at least try and solve this issue in the future. It seems though that this has never happened, there usually is an issue, I go through it with them time and time again and it is like they do not listen.

For example, my mother (Mary, ~45 YO) has had the same digital camera for at least 8 years. I have explained many time how to take the photos off and back them up, so many times that I even wrote her an app that has a single button to press, it does the rest. This app is never used, yet I am still called to solve these issues.

How can I communicate to my family that whilst I do not mind helping them out, I don't want to continually come over to solve issues I have fixed (and explained) times before?

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    @OldPadawan I have to drive ~20 minutes. This may not seem far but a bit of a pain if these requests are often or I really would rather do something else – nagrom97 Jun 1 at 16:11
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    how often do you normally visit? Will "ok, sounds like this needs to be done in person, remind me when I'm there Saturday" not work? – Kate Gregory Jun 1 at 16:53
  • Have you considered charging them? – user91988 Jun 1 at 19:05
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    Have you tried talking to them about this before? If so, it'd be helpful to include what you said and how they responded. – Em C Jun 1 at 20:03
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You have a valid problem. Possibly your family does not realize how they are inconveniencing you. Most likely your mother loves having you over so much that any excuse will suffice. At some point you will have to choose between being the ever-obliging child and taking a stand as an adult.

There is no disrespect in having a conversation with your mother along these lines:

You: Does the app I put on your camera not work?

Mother: What app?

You: Have you got your camera nearby? [Have her pick it up. Have her find the button. Walk her through unloading it baby-step by baby-step. Stay on the line with her and walk her through checking if the photos actually downloaded okay. When she assures you that they are fine, say something along the lines of:] Great! Now I'm going to let you get on with your evening. I'm kind of busy here myself.

Contact & Conditions

Her real fear might be losing contact with you. Plan to have Sunday dinner with her, or whatever works as quality time for both of you. Make it a regular habit to spend time with her so she knows she has not lost you. Let her know that the rest of your time is spoken for (even if for your own relaxation of for dating, etc.) but that she can count on these special times with you. Then make it happen.

If conditions need to be set for these times with your mother, weave them into the "contract" or agreement. You are an adult now and have adult responsibilities. If your mother is 45, you must be a fairly young adult whose responsibilities may increase in the coming decades. Take that into consideration.

Other Family Members

If other family members are also imposing on your time for your professional skills, use similar tactics. Some people prefer to make special allowances for parents, especially if siblings and cousins are working and able to pay their own tech support.

Here are some other lines you can use with family members:

  • I'm sorry you've got this problem but I've been working all day. I know this guy [name him; a name and face makes him seem more friendly] who has a business to help people with their home technology. He would be so happy to hear from you. Here's his number.

  • Sorry the solution we discussed last time isn't working. [That will inform them that they should be using the tips you gave them.] But call this guy [give number]. If I come over, I'll have to charge you because I do this for a living. [Obviously they will also have to pay this other guy but they never realized they had to pay YOU!]

  • Oh, I'm sorry that's still not working. I just got home and haven't had my supper yet. But if you can hold out till the weekend, I might be able to work you in. Just be warned that I do this for a living. Will you be paying by cash or credit card?

When your family realizes that you are not the free go-to person for all their tech problems, and that you will stay in contact socially, most likely things will balance up favourably for everyone. After all, they must feel somewhat guilty for taking advantage of you like this.

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    Thanks @Sarah Bowman I did not think about it from the angle that she may actually just want to spend time with me. – nagrom97 Jun 2 at 11:04
  • You're welcome. – Sarah Bowman Jun 2 at 16:49
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We share the same issues but from a different angle. I'm also very talented with IT staff and get the felling that some people at the office take me as a free ride. What I did to fix this issue is explain them how I fix those problems AND If I don't see them see them taking any notes- I ask them to do so because they will forget. My policy: I would not help anyone if s/he doesn't take notes and check how I fix it. Sometimes, I record the session with their phone and ask them to go back to the initial problem and check how we solved it together.

When I get the same problem form the same person (again) - I ask him/her to read the notes or video we took before and ask them 'at what point it didn't work?' or 'how is this different from what we did before'.

Family members - is a different game. They have high expectation of us (primarily nowadays) and it feel that we really need to go the extra mile and assist. Having said that, your 20 minutes drive + fix + drive back can be over 1hr in total. On a technical level - if its the same problem - just make a youtube clip and share it with your mom (if you add some nice comments while you explain it she would love to see it again I'm sure).

If this doesn't work how about try a completely different approach and simply say: "No. Unless you try to do it yourself". there's nothing wrong is saying No in a constructive way. "Mom, I put my confidence in you and I know you can do it. Look at the clip/note/app I did for you and I want you to tell me how you fixed it on your own. Make me proud. Call me in 1 hour and share with me your success story :-) "

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