“The secret of tango is in this moment of improvisation that happens between step and step.” – Carlos Gavito
Today, Aboodi Shabi, a transformational coaching expert and founder of the U.K. International Coaching Federation, offers his wisdom about the art and skill of grabbing someone’s attention with just the right amount of vigor and restraint.
How Do You Grab Someone’s Attention?
How much is too much? How little is too little?
When I did a somatic coaching course a few years ago, one of the exercises during the workshop consisted of literally grabbing someone else – by the arm – in order to get their attention.
“Whether we are acting in a designated leadership role, or simply taking the initiative in life, we need to get the attention of others throughout our day.”
As we worked on this, we were asked to pay attention to the question of how much is too much, and how little is too little. If I grab someone too hard, then I risk overwhelming them or putting them on the defensive, and if I don’t grab them hard enough, then I risk being ignored.
This question is a key territory for learning in the work I do with leaders. Whether we are acting in a designated leadership role, or simply taking the initiative in life, we need to get the attention of others throughout our day.
Listen to Me!
The exercise above focused primarily on the physical aspects of grabbing someone’s attention, but in our everyday life we grab others’ attention in all kinds of ways.
We make requests, for example, by speaking or by emails and gestures. We issue instructions or make interventions to make something happen or prevent something else from happening.
“The key aim is to get the other person to notice – to hear our request, for example, and to respond.”
This can be anything from asking our manager for a conversation, to calling out to stop a child from running out in front of a car, to bringing a staff member’s attention to some concern about their performance, or even when leading someone in tango.
Of course, the key aim is to get the other person to notice – to hear our request, for example, and to respond. This requires calibration.
Calibrating Your Technique
Make the grab too little and the other person might not even notice that we are trying to communicate with them – our requests go unnoticed; they don’t hear us; or, if they do hear us, they may not take us seriously. Make the grab too much, on the other hand, and we could alienate or overwhelm them or we might be dismissed as “too aggressive.”
We all tend to have a default style when it comes to trying to get someone else’s attention; we need to learn how to adapt to each situation in order to make the desired impact – there is no “one size fits all”.
Each situation, each conversation, requires a different approach.
“In any relationship, whether personal or professional, there is an ongoing need to calibrate, according to the situation, according to the context.”
How, for example, do you get the attention of your colleague to ask for their help on a project, or of your teenage child who’s ignoring your requests for help in the house, or of your team to address a crisis at work, or of someone you want to invite to a dinner date?
In each of those situations, it’s clear that there are different strengths of approaches needed. Not only that, but in any relationship, whether personal or professional, there is an ongoing need to calibrate, according to the situation, according to the context.
What worked today with your boss might not work tomorrow, for example. You might greet a friend with enthusiasm, only to notice her crest-fallen face, and need to adapt your approach.
Using Intuition to Dance
A way to look at this is to see each step in each conversation as an opportunity to calibrate, to be present to the question, “How little is too little, and how much is too much?”—not in a mechanical way, but more in the sense of being present to the conversation and to the other person, so that you are able to “dance” with them and “know” the right level of approach at an almost intuitive level.
Like anything else – like the tango, for example – at the beginning this may feel mechanical until we are more practiced in it.
Center Yourself, Find Your Balance
One of the ways to support this practice is by centering. When we come from a centered place, it’s much easier for calibrate and know how little or how much is needed, rather than just operating from our default style, or from our eagerness to get the point across or our concerns that we won’t be listened to.
Here are some reflections that might help you explore this for yourself:
- What is your default tendency? What impact does this have on others – do you find people backing away? Not hearing you? Responding?
- What conversations have you had recently where you might have been “too much” or “too little?” What was the cost to you or to the other person?
- What conversations do you need to have this week? How can you make yourself more available for connection by centering and calibration?
There is nothing to “get right,” only consistent practice and learning about yourself and about how you show up in your business or personal relationships, consistently checking in whether you are being too little or too much in each interaction in the conversation.
© Aboodi Shabi – 2015
firstname.lastname@example.org – www.aboodishabi.com