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Help Them Complete Their Work


Explanations > Perception > Attention > Help Them Complete Their Work

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



A useful way to get a person's attention is to focus first on them, understanding the work that is currently occupying their mind and help them to complete this.

Then, when this is done, ask them for their attention, help, etc.

This is particularly useful when you cannot demand attention or when they are unlikely to respond to other methods. It is also useful for building a good relationship with the other person.


A child wants a parent to help with homework. They notice that the parent is busy clearing up after dinner, so they lend a hand, helping to put things away. Afterward, they ask for help, which the parent gladly gives.

A car salesperson finds that potential customers who are 'just browsing' want to sell their car before buying. The salesperson offers them their asking price if they can do a part-exchange deal. This gets their attention and the sale is completed the same day.


When we approach other people in order to get their attention about something, we are often so focused on what we want from them that we forget they may well be occupied elsewhere and have different priorities to us. This can lead to a failure to get attention and possibly a degeneration in our relationship with them as either they view our interruption just as an annoyance, or we get irritated that they seem disinterested in something that to us is of primary importance.

One reason this works is that we all like to have a certain amount of interest and arousal in our lives, which our work and other activities may supply. Yet we can have too much arousal, and other people demanding our attention may just feel like overload when we at trying to get things done. We can also have too little arousal, so when work is completed, we feel a sense of emptiness and look for other things to occupy our attention. This latter situation, of course, is a good point at which to ask for their attention.

Helping the person also sets up an obligation for them to repay your kindness, so when you seek attention from them they feel compelled to listen and perhaps also comply with subsequent requests.

So what?

Understand the motivations and what is driving the other person, both generally and specifically in the short term. Then seek ways to help them. Even if you do not need their attention immediately, the friendship and sense of obligation will make them more ready to give you attention and other help in the future.

See also

Exchange principle, Arousal principle, Completion principle


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