Guide, Don’t Force

June 14, 2019

When communicating with anyone, it’s essential to keep in mind the frame of mind of the person you’re speaking to, pay attention to the words and tone of voice in which speak to the human you’re helping; try to tailor it to resonate best.

Say, for example, you’re speaking with an audience that doesn’t read a bunch or consume high-level content often, it’s unlikely a wordy thesis appeals to this kind of person; they’ll get turned away by the length and commitment required to consume what you’ve shared. This audience would probably prefer some short podcasts or easy to digest notes. It’s all about finding the form factor and communication style that not only works for you but also the people you’re serving.

How you visually and experientially present things is just as important. Don’t show a bunch of unnecessary elements that aren’t relevant to the person you’re hoping to assist; instead, carefully craft something they’ll have a delightful time using. How many times have you given up in the middle of an onboarding experience because it was seemingly never-ending? Step after step and the bar still stays you’re only 42% of the way through… It is because of experiences like this that I’ve been a huge advocate of “skip” functionality in user experiences for a long time. Being able to surpass a raft of bullshit you already know how to do, or can’t be bothered with, is vital to allow those more adept users to surge ahead rather than bogged down.

There’s only so much hand holding you can do until you’re no longer providing value and run the risk of becoming condescending or annoying. You’re a guide and not a prison warden. Forcing people in a direction they aren’t comfortable with usually results in them running away.

Say, for example, you run a car dealership, and someone comes in looking for a cheap, economical car for their family. In this situation, it’s unlikely you are going to sell this person a Lamborghini. Trying to do so would confuse them, they’ll feel uncomfortable and wonder why you understood them so poorly when they asked for what they want.

It’s the same online. Once you know enough about whom you’re trying to help, it’ll be easy to work out how to help them, and something they’ll even tell you what they want directly. Pay attention to the taste and values of the human on the other side of the screen. Focus on their wants and desires and then show them the path to get there. Guide them there and don’t try and force them into anything they don’t want to do.

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