Personal user manuals like the samples we share below are one of our favorite unconventional ideas for living a more extraordinary life. To explore new ones on a different theme every month, join the Unconventional Monthly.
Imagine if, before meeting someone for an important meeting, a blind date, or other social event, you could quickly read their personal user manual.
With instructions, warning, and tips for interacting with them, such a user guide could lead to:
✓ Less Awkwardness
You’d know what activities to do with them, what not to do, and what to talk about.
✓ Fewer Social Mishaps
You’d know how to address that person without offending them, how to not to be offended by their personality quirks, and their dietary restrictions.
✓ More Efficient Collaboration
You wouldn’t need months of interaction to know what they’re best at and not so good at, how you can help them, and how they can help you.
To better explain what a personal user manual could look like, how useful it can be, and how to make your own, here’s:
My Personal User Manual
|Manufacture:||1985 in Vancouver, Canada|
|Model:||Male, 6’3”, 200 pounds|
|Languages:||English (native), Spanish and French (business-level fluency)|
|Aliases:||None. Just Chris.|
|Primary Uses:||Analysis, problem-solving, getting organized|
To get optimal, long-lasting, and reliable performance out of Chris we strongly recommend you warm him up prior to intensive use.
|Good:||Home dinner parties, cheap places to eat, outdoor workout area or basketball court|
|Bad:||Expensive events or restaurants, loud parties, and formal occasions|
Topics of Conversation
|Good:||Sports (especially basketball), fitness, investing, unconventional thoughts, business ideas, travel.|
|Bad:||Politics, gossip, religion, music (other than 90s to mid 2000s rap)|
|Allergies:||Slight to cats and pollen.|
|Physical Defects:||Bent nose from many accidents and scar under nose from biking into a parked car and landing on his face at age 15.|
|Emotional Defects:||Rarely expresses strong emotion, positively or negatively.|
Do Not Push The Following Buttons
|Complaining:||Chris will not empathize unless you propose solutions to your problem.|
|Bragging:||Do not share your accomplishments with Chris unless asked.|
|Lack of Commitment||Chris does not tolerate people who do not commit to invites in case something “better” or “more important” might come up.|
Avoid Personal Injury
Do not take Chris’ feedback personally. His tactless and direct, but well-intended, attempts to help can be misperceived if you are sensitive.
|Calendar:||Schedule in advance. Chris does not respond well to last-second requests, invitations, or changes.|
|Hours:||Best between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. Shuts down at 10 p.m.|
|Frequency:||Once a week maximum for social purposes.|
|Contact:||Chris responds most directly to phone calls. He responds to messages a few times a day and emails once a week.|
|Noise-Level:||Quiet. No loud music or over-crowded events.|
|Group Size:||Small. Chris gets uncomfortable in groups bigger than six.|
|Working:||Leave Chris alone when he’s working for best performance.|
|Restrictions:||Eats and drinks everything.|
|Intolerances:||Zero allergies or dietary restrictions|
|Frequency:||Twice a day. Does not take fuel in the morning.|
|Favorites:||Nachos, Dairy Queen blizzards, and taste tests.|
Care and Maintenance
Chris requires minimal care, attention, and maintenance once you have him warmed up and running smoothly.
But please keep in mind the following:
|Reciprocate:||Chris expects you to return invites he makes to you with invites of your own. If not, he will assume you’re not interested in a relationship.|
|Avoid Over-Handling:||Chris will likely shut down if you use him too frequently. (See: Operating Instructions -> Scheduling -> Frequency)|
|Feedback:||Chris greatly appreciates constructive feedback and takes it unemotionally and impersonally. He does not need compliments.|
|Assistance:||Connect Chris with others. His networking abilities are dismal.|
Q: Why isn’t Chris responding?
A: Chris typically only responds to emails once a week and text messages once or twice a day. If urgent, call him. Don’t leave a voice message. He’ll call back as soon as he can.
Q: Why isn’t Chris making any noise?
Chris doesn’t like to be the center of attention, prefers to listen than to talk, and doesn’t find silence uncomfortable.
Q: Why is Chris writing on his phone while we’re talking?
A: Chris is adding information from your conversation to his daily journal, where he logs EVERYTHING he does.
Q: Why isn’t Chris looking at me in the eye?
A: Chris thinks better when not looking at anything.
Q: Why hasn’t Chris invited me to do anything recently?
A: Most likely because you have not invited him to anything or you have too frequently turned down his invites. Or he’s out of the country.
In Case of Emergency
For expert emergency assistance and relationship repairs, contact Kim: email@example.com
More Personal User Manual Samples
- Step Smith’s personal user manual. In the form of a slideshow, it’s part resume, part manual. The fun facts are a good idea.
- Madi Taskett’s personal user manual, using the same template as Steph.
- Sid Sijbrandij, the CEO of GitLab. This is the best executive-level work-focused user manual I’ve seen.
Share Your Personal User Manual
Send your personal user manual to firstname.lastname@example.org and, as long as it meets the criteria from the next section, I’ll add it to the list above.
How to Create Your Own Personal User Manual
The quickest and easiest way to make a personal user manual is to start with the general format of my example above as a template and keep in mind the following three tips:
Don’t Use “I”
Avoid making this common mistake by eliminating the word “I.” Write from the perspective of a friend telling another how to use a new tool.
Get Others’ Input
People who know you well can better explain your idiosyncrasies than you, so ask them for input.
Don’t argue if you disagree with anything they suggest for your personal user manual. Have another close contact validate or refute it.
Find the Right Length
Don’t be a pretentious smartypants who thinks they can get away with a two-line personal user manual. (Nobody’s that simple.)
But also don’t overwhelm people with too much detail. (Nobody has the time or interest to read it).
Limit your personal user manual to one or two pages of quick, easy-to-read bullet points.
What Do You Think?
Kim has little interest in personal user manuals. She thinks they’d ruin the magic of getting to know people by making it too robotic.
I disagree. I think they’d accelerate and improve interpersonal connections for anyone willing to take the time to make and read them.
Which side are you on?
Let us know your thoughts, or improvement ideas in the comments below. Even better, make a user manual of your own and send it to us!
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