Personal user manuals, like the samples I share below, are one of my favorite unconventional ideas for living a more extraordinary life. Here’s some inspiration for making your own.
Imagine if, before meeting someone for an important meeting, a blind date, or another social event, you could quickly peruse their personal user manual.
This brief manual would include instructions, warnings, and tips for your interaction with this person.
Don’t you think it 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 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.
If you suspect personal user manuals could have such benefits in certain situations, maybe consider making one of your own?
To give you a better idea of what a personal user manual could look like, how useful it can be, and how to put yours together, here are:
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.|
|Attachments:||Wife: Kim (m. 2020); Son: Zac (b. 2021).|
|Primary Uses:||Analysis, problem-solving, getting organized, generating fresh ideas.|
|Wiring:||98% Conscientious, 72% Open, 68% Agreeable, 7% Extraverted, 1% Neurotic|
To get optimal, long-lasting, and reliable performance out of Chris, you are strongly advised to warm him up prior to intensive use.
|Good:||Home dinner parties, cheap places to eat, the outdoors for walks or workouts, casual cafés (8am to 5pm) or bars (5pm to 8pm, or earlier in case of a great happy hour).|
|Bad:||Expensive events or restaurants, loud parties, and formal occasions.|
Topics of Conversation
|Good:||Sports (especially basketball), fitness, books, investing, unconventional thoughts, business ideas, travel.|
|Bad:||Politics, gossip, religion, music (other than 90s to mid-2000s rap).|
|Allergies:||Slight to cats and pollen. No food allergies.|
|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.|
|Psychological Defects:||Irrational aversion to spending money, off-putting hyper-rationality in all other areas.|
Dangerous Buttons to Push
|Complaining:||Chris will not empathize unless you propose solutions to your problem.|
|Lack of Commitment:||Chris does not tolerate social arbitragers who do not commit to invites in case something “better” or “more interesting” might come up.|
|Closed-Mindedness:||Chris expects you to be willing to at the very least entertain perspectives different from your own and, ideally, be open to minor shifts in belief.|
Avoid Personal Injury
|Feedback:||Chris tends to be tactless and direct in his feedback, but he is well-intentioned and only trying to be useful to you.|
|Questions:||Chris likes to ask a lot of questions. This can feel like interrogation or judgment, but it is only curiosity.|
|Contact:||Chris responds most directly to phone calls. He reviews and responds to messages a few times a day and emails once a week.|
|Calendar:||Schedule in advance. Chris prefers to plan his coming weeks on Sundays and does not respond well to last-second requests, invitations, or changes.|
|Hours:||Best between 7am and 7pm. Shuts down at 10pm.|
|Frequency:||Once a week maximum for social purposes.|
|Noise-Level:||Quiet. No loud music or crowded events.|
|Group Size:||Small. Chris gets uncomfortable in groups bigger than six.|
|Working:||Leave Chris alone when he’s working for best performance.|
|Intolerances:||Zero allergies or dietary restrictions. Loves all food.|
|Frequency:||Twice a day. Does not take fuel in the morning.|
|Favorites:||Nachos, Dairy Queen Blizzards, beer, wine, and taste tests.|
|Professional:||Running The Unconventional Route website and YouTube channel. Supporting his meager income from those “businesses” with investment returns on his pretirement savings.|
|Personal:||Beach volleyball, basketball, hiking, calisthenics, travel, wine tasting, trying new things, reading, watching TV in the evening, following NBA basketball.|
Care and Maintenance
Once you have warmed Chris up and are running smoothly with him, he requires minimal care, attention, and maintenance.
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 abysmal.|
Q: Why isn’t Chris responding?
A: Chris typically only responds to emails once a week and to text messages once or twice a day. If urgent, call him. Don’t leave a voice message. He’ll see the missed call and return to you as soon as he can.
Q: Why isn’t Chris making any noise?
A: 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. He splits his time between Vancouver, Canada and Cape Town, South Africa.
In Case of Emergency
For expert emergency assistance and relationship repairs, contact Kim: firstname.lastname@example.org
Tips for Writing Your Own Personal User Manual
The quickest and easiest way to make a personal user manual is to start with the general outline of my example. Then make it your own from that rough template.
Keep in mind the following three tips:
Avoid Using “I”
Your car’s manual doesn’t state, “I like to have my oil changed every 3 months.” It’s written toward the user’s perspective.
Do the same. Write from the perspective of a friend telling another how to use a new tool.
Incorporate Others’ Input
People who know you well can better explain your idiosyncrasies than you, so ask them for input.
If you disagree with anything they suggest or with their feedback on what you’ve written, have another close contact validate or refute it.
Find the Right Length
Trying to get away with a two-line personal user manual is being a pretentious smartypants. Leave that to your Twitter profile. Nobody’s that simple.
But also don’t overwhelm people with too much detail, either. Nobody has the time or interest to read it.
Limit your personal user manual to one or two pages of quick, easy-to-skim bullet points.
More Personal User Manual Samples
- Your ISTJ Care and Handling User Guide and Manual. Not a specific person’s user manual, but instead for people who classify themselves according to Myers-Briggs as introverted, sensing, thinking and judging.
- Steph 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 email@example.com and, as long as it meets the criteria from the next section, I’ll add it to the list above.
What Do You Think?
My wife Kim thinks personal user manuals ruin the magic of getting to know people by making it too robotic.
I disagree. I think manuals accelerate and improve interpersonal connections between those willing to take the time to make and read them.
Which side are you on?
Let me know your thoughts or improvement ideas in the comments below. Even better, make a user manual of your own and send it to me!
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