Key ways to get people to pay attention to you

Getting Attention From Others

You ultimately really need other people to pay attention to you, because that can lead to increased opportunities at work, better leadership of your team, better romantic or social prospects, etc. No one ends up doing projects or having sex with people they didn’t at one point pay some attention to, right? So it seems like we should focus on the how of getting this attention, much like we should other topics such as “How To Get People To Listen To You” and “How To Gain Influence.” Thankfully, some dude named Ben Parr (a former editor at Mashable) went and wrote a book on the topic of getting others to pay attention to you, then wrote an article highlighting some of the key points.

Because every headline in the modern era needs to have a number in it somewhere, he broke this into seven ideas. They are:

  • Automaticity
  • Framing
  • Disruption
  • Reward
  • Reputation
  • Mystery
  • Acknowledgement

Let’s unpack it. (And remember, attention spans are drastically reducing pretty much every year, so getting attention is even more of a premium skill.)

The first one, automaticity, is pretty easy: some sensory cues demand attention immediately, i.e. a gun being fired somewhere in the vicinity of you. The idea here isn’t necessarily to scream like this guy …

… but to play on the instincts of others to capture attention. For example, key presentation? Wear red somewhere. It pops more.

The second one, framing, refers back to the idea that we essentially process everything through our own specific frames of reference. If you want to connect with an audience and get their attention, you have only two choices: either adapt to their frame, or change their frame. That’s it. This rolls up a little bit with the A.I.M. approach. The easiest way to achieve “framing” is through repetition of a message, because that resonates with people. Most really good speakers do that.

Disruption is about seeing or hearing something jarring (or something that doesn’t quite make sense) and paying more attention to it because it violated some expectation we had. Here’s an example: rather than asking someone for “20 minutes to talk,” (which is what everyone under the sun does) invite them to 20 minutes on the treadmill, or 20 minutes walking the High Line, or whatever it is. Just shake shit up in terms of how things are always done. People will pay attention.

This next one, reward, is a huge one. Daniel Pink seemingly made a career on this, and despite his works, a lot of managers still don’t really understand motivation.

Basically, the idea with “reward” is figuring out what makes people tick — what they want in terms of a tangible or intangible reward — and give it to them when they perform. The promise of it will increase attention paid.

Reputation goes a little bit to this study explaining that our brains can actually slow down (process more) when we believe we’re receiving advice from an expert. So, while I wouldn’t necessarily wield a hammer with your LinkedIn profile, you can open a discussion or meeting by briefly establishing your credentials. That’s relevant and gives some context to “OK, why is this person — as opposed to some other person — talking to me about this?”

The idea of mystery is “leaving key information out,” because the human brain will naturally try to fill it in. That fosters attention. Apple does this very well when they market products.

Here’s a cool quote on acknowledgement from Dr. Thomas de Zengotita: ““All mammals want attention. Only human beings need acknowledgment.” If you’re a little slow on the uptake, this is the entire reason social media rose up the way it did. I’d also argue that if you’re a good listener and can quote back people’s old stories and examples to them (thus proving you’re a good listener), more people will in turn pay attention to you. Sometimes I think I’m good at that. Other times, not so much.

Ted Bauer