This article is not written for those on an insatiable quest for others’ attention due to imbalances in their own sense of self worth. Attention does not heal nor fulfill; it doesn’t hurt or hinder either. Attention simply highlights. If you want to use it to your advantage, attention is to be courted for the purpose of solving problems and achieving strategic goals.
Courting attention is required in keeping members of your team focused, running meetings smoothly, and being efficient in time spent with others. On the flipside, ensuring any one element remains hidden from attention requires an ability to usher it away too. The act of managing attention thereby entails being able to guide it well enough for secrets to stay hidden, as well as using it to publicize anything deemed worthy and good.
Below are principles in the process of courting attention. Written to be as universally applicable as possible, the text below can be applied across various contexts of where attention resides. Understanding principles of diversion will enable you to find courting attention less challenging, which is why both – courting and diverting – are included topics on this page.
A framework of establishing a process of courting or diverting attention is presented below.
It should be emphasized that attention is courted or diverted via an established and effective process, rather than single, one-off acts.
Understanding Average Tendencies of Individuals
Building skill in courting attention should begin at understanding average distributions of attention in any context. The law of averages applies to visual gaze, auditory senses, and intuitive feelings. The products you browse in the grocery store aren’t placed on shelves randomly. The ads you see online have been molded to fit the average tendencies of visitors on sites. In a world that competes for your attention, every frame of your existence has things you pay attention to, and things you don’t.
Notice the things you pay attention to on average. An average person will look, listen, and feel in an average way. In life there are average routes from A to B, average daily steps that people take, and an average level of discomfort they can withstand.
The ones who master the act of evasion understand attentive averages to a detailed degree. The actions of someone who masterfully conducts others’ attention are thought through to veer in and around average resting spots for attention in accordance to their plan. Being a good manager of others’ attention does not mandate only doing what the average person pays – or doesn’t pay – attention to. There are situations in which being in the attentive sightlines of the average contributes to your goals, and cases in which it doesn’t.
The point in knowing where average targets of attention rest is to supplement planning. A certain and unique combination of jumping in and out of attentive “hot zones” is required to optimally complete any specific attention-related goal.
The location in which you place an object depends to what degree you want it to remain hidden. In any room, there is a location in which an object is most accessible by attention as well as most discreet.
The ones who court and divert attention at their whim understand where it’s likeliest to be granted and where it doesn’t step a foot. From there they plan and implement a process. Things that need attention brought on them are placed where they are likeliest to be attended to. Things that are in one’s best interest to keep under wraps are kept away from average channels of sensory input.
Iterations – Sightlines, Flow, and Stagnancy
The success-rate of a process that you set up is what determines attention gained or lost from a single individual. Your process may be sculpted with the goal of diverting or garnering attention to any one particular item, element, or identifier. Achieving your overall goal would be dependent on how many iterations of that process are performed. In other words, the more people that are exposed to your process of gaining attention with a certain success-rate, the greater the total you’ll get attention from will be. On the flipside, when attempting to divert, the more people free to analyze an attempted diversion, the more people there will be that catch on to things you seek to keep hidden.
A process which includes you walking through the backdoor for your shift at work minimizes the iterative risk of customers seeing you entering your workplace through the front door. Using the back entrance daily would be an important task in a process which seeks to minimize the attention gained when entering your workplace. Your chances of being seen entering the backdoor would be slimmer than being seen whilst entering through the front. However, the more people that are exposed to the process of you parking your car, walking to the back, then entering, the likier one of them will notice your tendency to enter work via the backdoor.
The section prior to this one touched on understanding where average minds travel to and where they tend to linger. The knowledge of average tendencies however, only goes as far as the number of subjects whose tendencies are tried and tested by any one process.
Marketing your project online requires intercepting a busy channel of attention with a tactic of gaining attention based on your understanding of average tendencies. Placing an effective ad in the optimal spot on a site with few visitors will only get you so far. Meanwhile, placing an effective ad on a popular site, but in a corner nobody’s gaze travels to wouldn’t yield favorable results either. Your ad – no matter how effective it is at grabbing attention in itself – is only capable of yielding good outcomes when its effect is iterated across many eyes.
Increasing or decreasing iterations and exposure is vital in courting or diverting attention to or away from something. Understanding sightlines, pathways, and the flow of attention will enable you to maximize your labor should you choose. To publicize, ensure what you seek to publicize is in direct sightlines on paths most travelled. To divert, ensure what you seek to hide is on roads least travelled.
Amplitude – Utilizing Social Proof
The common channels of attention are obvious but are highly competitive. In any domain, there will be a space in which most gather and where attention-seekers attempt to garner the attention that they seek. There could be another space where only the important few reside and interact. Attention’s potential amplitude is not solely determined by how many eyes and ears you have on you. Those eyes’ and ears’ ability to help your goals is an important metric to consider.
An understanding of amplitude can pay dividends when infused into attempts to court attention that would otherwise produce mediocre results. It is generally easier to impress a few rather than many. If the few you impress carry amplitude with their attention, the number you impress matters less than who you’ve managed to impress.
An obvious example is one of genuinely impressing your boss at work. An impressed boss carries amplitude with the attention that you’ve garnered from them. An impressed manager’s capacity to provide benefit to you is higher as opposed to impressing a colleague of the same standing as you.
From the standpoint of diverting attention, building comfort and belief in your obscurity in an important stakeholder can extend that belief to those around them.
For example, security guards in any one location hold more amplitude in their attention than average citizens. Their suspicion matters more than the suspicion of a passer-by. If trying to divert attention in a particular setting secured by guards, it would be wise to prioritize diverting the guard’s attention away from your actions with a secondary focus being on random individuals.
The iterations performed of the process you set up to court attention should be focused on those whose attention carries high amplitude; more potential for positive results.
Effects of Strategic Omission and Inclusion
A pre-emptive analysis of which two singular acts with the same purpose would yield more attention should include considering strategic omission. Strategically omitting something involves omitting parts from the whole for the purpose of drawing more attention to the part that’s left. Whether through words or actions, strategic omission can be a useful tool in courting or diverting attention.
For instance, your child may come to you crying out that they fell off their bike. A sentence exclaiming that fact would be omitting important background information as to the circumstances of the fall. Your attention as a parent, would be piqued were you to hear that your child fell off their bike. Upon further analysis and questioning, you may come to find that your child fell off their bike as they were trying to get on it, in a stationary state.
Your child’s omission of the fact that they fell off their bike whilst being stationary would serve to garner more attention from you than if they were to lead with that explanation. As they explain the situation further, your worries subside a bit, as the situation presented initially is dulled in its severity by way of additional information. On the flipside, should your child have been rolling down-hill and lost control at high speed, their omission of that fact would serve to lessen your response to their revelation that they simply fell off. In this case, your reaction to hearing they fell off their bike may in fact not be attentive enough. Upon further hearing the dramatic series of events of the high-speed fall, you may elect to be much more attentive to their reported injuries.
Media outlets which bait their readers with crafty headlines utilize omission to achieve their desired viewership metrics. Since a publisher wouldn’t look too credible if they were to completely make up titles to their articles to garner higher readership, they carefully omit uninteresting information from their headlines. Details that provide grounded context to any one story either increase or decrease the attention it receives. More likely than not, media outlets omit information from initially visible content with the purpose of baiting readers / viewers to consume stories which are less interesting than their titles and tags make them out to be.
Omission is a useful tool in garnering or diverting attention because it is a passive act which is difficult to prove as being utilized purposefully.
Analyze how omission of certain elements to the things you say or do will affect the attention those things receive from others. To garner attention, omit saying or doing things that will discourage attention from coming your way. To divert attention, omit saying or doing things that will encourage attention to stick.