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Attention and Engagement


Explanations > Perception > Attention > Attention and Engagement

Description | Example | Discussion | So what?



To get attention, engage them in something interesting. Get them talking about things that are important for them. Get them doing something that will engross them.

Then, when you have their attention, turn things gradually to the matter you want from them. Be careful in this not to switch so suddenly you lose them again.

This method can be helped if the initial subject is related to the desired subject or where there is a relatively easy bridge that you can cross from one to the other.


A teacher starts a lesson with a question about a video game. They discuss playing the game. Then the teacher turns the question to design of the game, and finally to designing a table, which is the real subject of the lesson.

A magician asks their subject to look at a playing card and then hold it carefully. The person then has to stay there while the magician continues the trick.

A sales person asks a potential customer what car they currently drive and what they like and dislike about it. This provides information to help the sales person frame the next move which is to steer the customer to a similar type of vehicle.


Sometimes just trying to pull attention onto a subject where the other person has little interest is likely just result in objections and refusal, making attention even harder to get in the future as they see you as manipulative or attention-hungry. Getting them engaged first in something they like helps create a bond with them, which leads them to like you more and be ready to listen to you. It also builds obligation so they are more likely to comply with your later requests for attention.

Engagement with you also means that they have to take their attention away from anything else. To achieve this, it helps if your subject is more interesting to them than where they are currently attending. Remember also that you are offering personal attention to them, and, as most people like being given attention, they will be further inclined to keep their attention with you.

This method can be combined with helping them complete work, giving help first and then engaging them second. This reels them in and moves them steadily towards your eventual attentional goals.

So what?

If you are unsure about whether the other person will comply with a simple request for attention, take things more slowly and engage them, even in simple conversation. This will both give you useful information and move them to a more ready state to give you their attention.

See also

Obligation principle, Bonding principle, Questioning Techniques


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