The people in your life are grouped into various mental categories. These categories aren’t linear in their listing. Specific categories may distinguish the level of trust you have for your various friends. Other categories can represent which floors your acquaintances at work sit on. In an effort to articulate the motive of this article, the following example will be used:
The person you sit next to at work typically demands your kind attention. You sometimes get a coffee with them during your break, and are warm to each other in conversation. This person reciprocates the warmth with which you treat them, and is generally available for whenever you need to have a word. This relationship, as you consider it, is a little bit more than merely a friendly one at work. You’d consider calling this person your friend, and suspect they’d say the same.
You then notice that should a specific category of people this person considers more important come along, he/she will change the way they interact with you.
Attention being divided is a given, as there are more people to for whom to spread the attention. However, the person you considered calling a friend no longer laughs at the same jokes or responds with the same remarks as they have before. They have seemingly changed the way they show attention, notwithstanding the amount of attention that they show. They may become colder towards you while trying to improve others, and may be slightly ashamed of the relationship they have with you.
Why You Shouldn’t Vary in How You Show Attention
Do not become the friend described in the example above. Even if the general amount of attention you show others has to lower, remain steady in the quality of that attention in the face of any external factors. Laugh at the same jokes, maintain the same level of warmth towards others, and be consistent with how emotionally available you are towards them. Doing so will serve to show others of their honest place within your mind. The category which you group them into will be clear to them, and they’ll respect you for it. You’ll serve to not only maintain the level of trust others feel towards you, but may develop it as well.
The people with whom we interact sometimes even expect a change in the way you show them attention. For example, if your company’s CEO comes walking by your office space, you may resist being your usual jolly self with those you’re close to. You may discontinue ‘shooting the shit’ (if you will), and may put on an act of seriousness. This expected change in the attention that you show is not painful because of a trigger for it which is universally understood. Your friendly coworkers all fully understand the fact of the matter at hand. Should you put yourself at risk and continue being your same jolly self towards them while your CEO walks around the office, you will be perceived as genuine but not serious.
Should a change of the quality of your attention be triggered by a universal trigger, don’t hesitate to comply. The context of this article is acting differently when there are no universal triggers for doing so.
If it does not put you under serious risk or danger, be consistent in how you show attention. It will encourage others to do the same with you, and will develop a sense of confidence in the relationships you find yourself in. Others will be able to rely on your output; whether it is attention, work, or emotion, to be consistent throughout the lifespan of your relationship. They will be able to trust you in moments when they’re under pressure, and will be more likely to be available when you feel that pressure for yourself.
The Effect It Has on People Watching From Outside
Not only would you strengthen the relationships with those you show a consistent quality of attention towards, the people watching from outside will also be impressed. They will see that you do not change in the way you treat those close to you amidst pressure from outside sources. This will encourage them to develop a relationship with you as they begin to yearn that type of unfazed quality of attention. You will seem trustworthy to people watching from a third-person’s perspective, and thereby reap the rewards that come with that.
Being consistent in how you show attention therefore extends its roots to many facets of your influence over others. You will develop a reputation of being socially reliable, and able to handle outside pressure. You’ll encourage others looking on to climb up the categorical hierarchy of acquaintances that you hold, all the way toward being your closest friends.