An eager want

With his jaw clamped shut, my seven-month-old son, Hughie, shakes away my attempts to syringe medicine into his mouth. It’s a heartbreaking routine. I have to upset him to help him. I get frustrated at his anguish and pang with guilt at his whimpers.

It's not good for us to go through this. We had to get creative. We had to make Hughie want to take his medicine. Now we give him the syringe to hold. He’s happy, in control, and when he willingly puts it in his mouth, one of us plunges it.

My son reminded me that you can’t force people to do something they don’t want to do. People in power tend to get carried away with giving orders. It’s easy to forget there is a more pleasant way. Create an eager want. A desire so eager that they can’t help but act on it. Use influence, not power.

You might think, well, this is just plain manipulation! I believe it’s considerate to make requests pleasurable and frictionless to carry out. We’re more likely to do something when we decide to do it. We like to stay in control. Wouldn’t you rather take the medicine yourself, than have your jaw forced open?

It’s a useful thing to consider in the context of interaction design and marketing. How can you make a task so insatiably desirable to get done, that it does? Curiosity is one powerful way. We need to know what happens next. Email marketers have got this down to a fine art. I received an email from the Wikimedia Foundation with the subject: “Charles - this is awkward”. You bet I clicked that email. Because I wanted to, and like the horse, I was lead to water. But the important thing is I still get decide to drink or not.