September 06, 2022

I was in that deep REM (rapid eye movement) slumber you get right before you wake up in the morning when I felt something nuzzling my hand.  My hand was outside the covers and Zena had decided it was time for me to take her outside.  I had initially been good about hopping up when notified she needed out, but I have become lax now that she is older.  I ignored her hoping she would go lay down.  Rather than laying down I heard her nails click across the floor to the other side of the bed.  While I did not see this, Zena must have used a similar tactic with Melissa as I heard her rouse, but she did not sit up in the bed.  Having been ignored by both her peeps Zena decided to take matters into her own hands (paws?).  With a huge leap Zena landed in the middle of the bed.  This time she made herself clear.  I want some attention.   

When I looked online, I found Ben Parr of the Harvard Business Review had written on the seven best triggers to get someone’s attention.  Automaticity refers to sensory cues to automatically direct our attention.  This is one of our survival mechanisms that helps us react faster than our brains can think.  Framing refers to our view of the world shaped by our biological, social, personal experiences, and biases.  These tell us to pay attention to some ideas and to ignore other.  Disruption means we pay attention to anything that violates our expectations as we figure out whether this is a threat or a positive development.  Reward is provided by the neurotransmitter dopamine which is aligned with anticipation and motivation.  This fuels our desire to “want” and rewards us with self-satisfaction and a sense of purpose.  Reputation causes the decision-making centers of our brains to slow or even shut down while we are receiving advice from an expert, a phenomenon known as “directed deference.”  Mystery or wondering what will happen has a scientific term attached to it, the Zeigarnik effect.  Since we dislike uncertainty, we try and actively reduce it by any means possible.  Finally, acknowledgement is our need for validation and empathy from others and is one of our most vital human needs.  Understanding the science of attention is a prerequisite to success in both your business and personal life.

Most of us have experienced others using inappropriate ways to get our attention (yelling, “Heh.  You!”), but how do we teach children the right way to get another’s attention?  One way to start is by standing close to the person whose attention we seek.  Moving close to another’s personal space will allow them to subconsciously feel your presence, even if they are not looking at you.  If that does not work, you can gently tap them on the shoulder or say their name, and then wait for them to respond.  If all else fails, you can begin a conversation and hope they will participate.  My favorite way to get someone’s attention is to approach the group already in conversation, move just outside their personal zones so they know I am there but not intruding, and listen intently to the conversation.  Most will (at least eventually) accept or acknowledge your presence.  Now that you have their attention, you can ask your question.  Teaching children to politely get attention is a skill that should be taught and practiced keeping it fresh in a child’s mind.  While nuzzling the other person’s hand may be effective, it may not have the desired result.

THOUGHTS:  I recall talking with my sister at her daughter’s outdoor wedding when she noticed the mother of the groom in conversation about 100 yards (30 m) away.  She wanted to talk with her and asked me if I would be willing to get her attention.  I said sure, and loudly called out the woman’s name.  She turned around and looked, so I got her attention, but I am sure that was not my sister’s intention.  There are good and bad ways to get another’s attention.  In social situations it is most often appropriate to be polite.  How you get another’s attention will often determine the tone of the conversation and whether they will even listen to you.  While unity builds, conflict can only divide.  Act for all.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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