Tag Archives: attention

You know more than you think: A Clean Space Practice

26 Apr 17
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We know that information is all around us. And knowledge and even wisdom are too – if you use your attention in the right way.

Here is a short exercise to help you get access more of what you know. To help you see with fresh eyes and listen with fresh ears, to help you connect with you might already intuitively know. You might want to allow yourself 5 minutes or so to complete the exercise and, if you can, another 5 minutes or so to process what you learn.

The exercise is very simple, to the point that it might even seem repetitious. This allows you to maintain focus to learn more than you had noticed before to look and really see. And since the foundation of lasting change is building in practices and habits to prime your awareness and habitual thoughts, you can use this regularly as a Practice. So let’s try it out and see what you discover:

Step 1: Select your context.
Select some topic to focus upon for this exercise. It could be a goal you have been working on. Or a relationship that you have been thinking about. Or a problem you are facing. For the first few times, you might want to avoid emotionally charged topics to get used to this simple process.

Step 2: Setup your space.
Choose a physical location that can represent that context. You could identify a chair that is in your room. Or an imaginary circle on the ground. Or even a whole room if you have the space. The intention is to have something on which you can focus your attention so if you don’t have so much space, you can use objects – even something like a coffee cup or a juggling ball – to represent the context.

Step 3: “What do you know from here?”
Step into that space (or focus on that object) and ask yourself, “What do I know from here?” If you are coaching someone, you can ask them “What do you know from here?”

Step 4: “And what else do you know from here?”
After the initial response and remaining in that space (mental or physical), ask yourself again, “And what else do I know from here?” Allow yourself to come up with another answer. The challenge at this stage is to keep yourself (or your client) focused on the topic – and that is where the value can be found: You will then repeat the question again and again, for a total of six times. You might repeat back or note the previous answer to prompt yourself to search more intently for an answer.

Step 5: “And now what do you know?”
Having gained more information about what you ‘know’ it is time to reintegrate that knowledge. Allow yourself to do this in whatever way feels appropriate.


We often find that the initial answers to Steps 3 and 4 are fairly superficial yet by persisting with the questioning, surprisingly rich insights emerge. To take the process further, you might identify another space (or spaces) that knows something about the context and repeat Steps 3-5. For example, if your ‘context’ was your relationship with your boss, you could select your “desired career” as another space, giving yourself an opportunity to think about your relationship with your boss from the perspective of your desired career.

(While this exercise is aimed at adults, it is sufficiently simple that even a child could do it, especially if guided by a parent.)

Preframing and Pre-suasion: Shifting attention to get what you want

02 May 17
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How are you using your most precious resource?Cialdini literally wrote the book on Influence. Last year his long awaited followup was released: Pre-suasion. That Amy Cuddy (Presence), Adam Grant (Originals) and Richard Thaler (Nudge) have written endorsements suggests there’s probably something good there. Much of it validates (often by little more than rephrasing) what we train as NLP but I wanted to share with you a few things that relate directly to what we do in NLP: The primacy of attention, the importance of preframing and the dangers of channelled attention.

Cialdini emphasises the importance of attention: What we are noticing in any given moment becomes our experience. In a sense, your attention is your most precious resource. Whether you are being mindful or distracted, focused or relaxed, focusing on what you resent or what you feel grateful for in this moment, attention is our ultimate currency, our purest resource.

John Grinder talks about “training attention” being the cutting edge or even next generation of NLP, which is something that we explore as “Attention Training” in our trainings.

So how can we influence attention? How can we help guide our listener to be receptive to our messages and open to the important ideas we want to convey?

Cialdini’s answer is that the best communicators are the best because of the way they frame their message, preparing their recipients to be receptive to a message in advance: Great communicators preframe.

Preframing frontloads the attention and thought patterns of the recipient, priming them to be receptive to your message. Preframing is the set before the spike, the foundations before the walls, the training before the competition. The introduction for the speaker. A special moment in a movie is made more special by the music that prepare us.

Preframing makes everything that follows easier and more effective. We all know that a first impression lasts but we often forget that we are always making that first impression.

Focus inflates perceived importance

The few bits of information to which we are paying attention in that moment become more persuasive and influential simply because we are noticing them.

A distinguishing characteristics of many ‘masters’ of a domain is that they see the best move first. Masters tend to unconsciously know the answer and then work backwards to the present moment. Whether in chess or maths or business, real masters of a domain seem to ‘just know’ the answers, or at least can cut through to the most critical assumptions to test and questions to ask. The novice – including the novice who will eventually become a master – will see one move, perhaps a good move, but only sometimes will it be that best move. Because in noticing that first move we are all blinded to the other alternatives.

My son is a keen chess player. A local International Master coached him recently and complimented him on how my son saw the whole board rather than fixating upon one area or another. (If only he did that more consistently in his games, when he falls into the trap of channelled attention just like the rest of us!) So by consistently having him practice seeing at least two or three other reasonable moves, he can train himself to look beyond the tendency to be blinded by the first thing that he sees and more habitually consider the alternatives that will allow him to make even better decisions.

Some key points:

  • What you focus upon becomes important and influential in your thinking. Carefully choose how you use your attention and consider how you can train yourself to more effectively use your attention. So: How well are you using your attention?
  • Preframing or “Presusasion” allows us to be better communicators by priming the ideas and associations that we want our listeners to make. This helps them be open to our message, understand our message and ultimately can allow us to be more persuasive. So: Learn to deliberately preframe.
  • Channelled attention biases us to treat what we are noticing and paying attention to as being more important. We can train ourselves to consider a fuller range of issues to make better decisions while remembering that our listeners are strictly limited in what they are noticing. And what they notice becomes their reality. So: Train your attention.

Influence and Pre-suasion are great reads. To learn about how to put these skills into action, to be more effective in whatever you are doing, find a way to learn more. Our next trainings are coming up in June and it would be great to have you there.