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Attention principle


Principles > Attention principle

Principle | How it works | So what?


To get agreement you need attention.

How it works

The one thing we all have the same amount of is time, and changing someone else's mind means first getting a slice of their attention. You can do this in positive and negative ways by showing opportunities or threats to the other person's needs or goals.


Intrigue plays an important part here, hinting at the possibility of gains. By showing the other person something that leads to them associating with their needs and goals, they will be attracted to pay more attention.


Threat creates fear by attacking needs. Something that is perceived as a threat will also grab attention, especially if it is a 'clear and present danger'. This can be easy to create, but the problem, of course, is that it can put the other person into Fight-or-Flight mode. Also, it can create future distrust and giving you even less attention if it turns out to be a false alarm.

Threats must thus be real and not manufactured by you. A classic threat generation is to point out something that is already there that the other person has not noticed.


Within individual communications, attention can be subtly directed through the use of emphasis, both in words and body language. Rank's Intensify/Downplay schema uses the same principle, creating attention by intensifying experience or reducing it to avoid unwanted distractions.


We pay attention to things that appear more often. If we did not notice them first time, at some point along the say, repetition will make things bubble up to our conscious minds.


Perhaps less scary than a threat (though on the same continuum), any form of confusion, where meaning is not as predicted, causes the person to pause and review what has just happened.

Sensory contrast

At the basic sensory level, attention may be gained by sudden changes, such as sudden noises or flashes of light. What is particularly important here is the change. The senses are good at detecting contrasting differences, which can be used to make things stand out and hence gain attention.

So what?

First figure out what attention you need and then decide on the most effective way of getting it. Beware of tricking them to grab attention, because you'll get even less next time--perhaps when you need it even more.


AIDA, Emphasis with Body Language

Confusion principle, Distraction principle, Repetition principle

Needs, Goals, Emotions

Theories about attention

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