Muskegon, Michigan. Mid-July. Holwerdas and those related to Holwerdas reuniting. I’m trying to get the family, (almost) all of it, to ditch the late-evening alcohol-enabled-malaise in favor of bowling. When surveyed, everyone is in favor. Yes, we want to. I’m excited, because it’ll be the first time we went out somewhere as part of our festivities since I was I was small(er).
An hour passes. It gets closer and closer to the point of no return. You reach the point of no return, pass it by even a minute, and bowling is nixed. I’m not going to let that happen this year.
A problem emerges – no one has socks. Of course. What shameless fungus-ridden foot is stuffing its toes willy-nilly into a smelly, used up pocket of leather? No foot of mine. I always practice safe socks.
My bowling idea is going out the window – this sock thing has thrown everyone. It would be so much easier at this point to just call it a night, crack open a few more Coronas, and have an uncomfortable conversation about politics while Josh Groban’s Swahili serenade bubbles from 5.1 different places around the room. I’m starting to get this feeling that it’s happening again, the same thing that happened last year, and the year before that. But I wasn’t having it – this time, balls would roll. Here’s how I made it happen.
I started talking about how we could get socks. Could we share socks? Could we donate socks to each other and possibly have enough? Could we call the bowling alley and see if they had some solution for just this emergency? Could someone do a sock run and meet us at the alley? Everyone got involved in this problem-solving exercise, and after a few minutes all of the prospective bowlers had some kind of sock situation figured out.
The point of no return was still half an hour away, and so we bowled.
We bowled, even though it would still have been easier to sit around and have our personal political persuasions poked. Why?
Cultivation of intent.
By sparking a problem-solving exercise, I created a situation where “Oh, we don’t have socks, oh well.” was not an acceptable answer. Everyone was coming up with solutions, thus solidifying intent in each participant’s mind. Why solve a problem if you don’t intend on using the answer? (See, I believe there are no purely hypothetical discussions, but that’s a purely hypothetical discussion for another time.) On top of that, making sure everyone got socks gave this intent a physical form. “We spent time getting the socks. We have the socks now. We might as well go use of them.”
Using this principle, think of how easy it would be to trick someone into believing that they actually wanted to do something they might have felt ambivalent about (or even a little less than excited about) doing. Pose a problem, have them solve it with you, and then nudge them into acting out the solution with you.