It’s Not Me, It’s You

I know you are frustrated; I would be too. Up until a moment ago, you surfed with a smile through web page after favorite web page while simultaneously downloading music. Every few minutes a "new email message" notification appeared on your screen prompting you to check your Inbox.

But now, as you click a web page link to pull down that last, favorite song from the online music store into your iPod, you see the infamous, Internet Explorer "Cannot display page" message.

You invest 3 minutes to reboot your computer, hoping the fresh start eliminates whatever culprit is keeping you from your precious connection to the outside world. Then, full of optimism, you open your browser only to be greeted by the same ugly white and black error message containing the same cryptic jargon (something about your network connection). You try to visit a different web site and the stubborn error message appears so quickly that you could swear that your computer didn't even try. So you click the reload button -again and again. After a few moments you sneak one more mouse-click in -as if to catch the computer off guard. No luck.

"Perhaps it's a problem with only the browser," you hope. So you open your email program and click "send and receive." Your attempt is rejected by yet another message of "failure." At this point even some spam would be welcome.

At last, you acknowledge that your Internet connection is officially down. This presents a great opportunity for a tantrum if you haven't thrown one yet.

If you've ever had the joy of troubleshooting an Internet connection problem by phone with your ISP (Internet Service Provider), you'll remember how "unfun" it is. If the call ended by being told it is your fault (and with no specific remedy), you'll understand the title of this article.

Of course there are exceptions to every rule (so don't write complaints to The Sun about my unfairness) but in general, resolving Internet connection problems with an ISP is a hassle because there are so many places to point a finger. Hardware support people blame software for problems. Software support people blame your hardware if you call about a problem. Your ISP has the luxury of choosing either of these options -plus any devices or wiring in your home and even the weather outside -for blame.

For clients, I often jump into the masochistic ritual of calling for tech help to resolve a connection problem. A guru I respect once advised me: "Attempt and note all your quick and cheap solutions before calling." Then by telling the phone support person what your problem isn't at the beginning of your call, you'll stifle their temptation to blame you for your problem without trying to fix it. Sure, it may throw them off their rehearsed script, but it's effective. I call this approach PPSSAA (Preemptive Phone Support Shock And Awe).

Here's how it works: Take the steps necessary so you can honestly say the following at the beginning of your conversation. Give it to them and don't let them interrupt you.

1. "I have not installed software that could be interfering with my connection. (games, financial software etc).

2. I have physically checked all cable connections to power, to my computer and to the wall. No cable has been loosened by my pet, my rhythmic foot tapping or my overzealous housekeeper.

3. The lights on my Internet equipment are ____ (steady, flashing or off) and yes, I have powered this Internet equipment off and on. I then waited two minutes and tried again with no luck.

4. I have restarted my computer twice with the same results.

5. I have performed a full virus scan and despite the conspiracy theories suggested by my friends, my system does not have a virus that is keeping me offline.

6. I have swept and cleaned my computer for spyware using Adaware which I got for free at

7. I have not moved my computer to a new location in my home.

8. And may I please have your full name in case I need to call you back or otherwise escalate this issue? ...Thank you. Now can you please help me?"

Then say to yourself: "I am hopeful. Even though I'm frustrated and obviously not in control I must be polite because this person can either help or blame me."

You'll be back online in no time.

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