Capturing Someone’s Attention?

What’s the most important currency anybody can give you?

A compliment? A smile? A job? Or money?

When you think about it, any of the above starts with someone paying attention – to you.

“Attention is the most important currency that anybody can give you. “ according to Steve Rubel , chief content strategist with Edelman – the largest public relations firm in the world. In his opinion, “It’s worth more than money, possessions or things.”

Rubel’s singular emphasis on the power of attention definitely got my attention this morning. While cruising through the Harvard Business Review (HBR) daily feeds that flood my already overloaded IN box, his interview in “ 7 Ways to Capture Someone’s Attentioncaught my eye.

“If your boss doesn’t notice your work, how will you get a promotion?”

If your team doesn’t listen to you, how can you lead or work effectively?”

And I would add this –

If you can’t capture the attention of those in a position to help you, how do you survive? How do you move ahead?

If we agree that success in life and career depends on someone noticing you, then we need to ask ourselves what is it about you and me that can capture their attention?

While “7 Ways to Capture Someone’s Attention” is a by-product of author Ben Parr’s new book about the science behind captivating others (based on more than 1,0000 psychology, neurology, sociology studies and dozens of interviews with leading corporate executives and industry professionals), it is also primarily written for employees or managers who need help to hold an audience during a pitch or a presentation.

However, the issue of attention reminds me of my own efforts since coming to America from Hong Kong as a foreign student, and eventually integrating into the mainstream American media and culture as a professional and citizen. This on-going life-long process requires that I am mindful of what gets someone’s attention.

Here is a 3-step framework that I’ve discovered was what helped me get positive attention for good, not just for short-term gain or effect.

Blend in

Whether it’s a new school, a new job, or a new environment in America or in China, I always notice that people already notice me because I am not only new to them, but I also look, sound, act and interact differently. My strategy is to surprise their expectation by first blending in. Contrasting their stereotypical view that I may be quiet, shy or aggressive depending on where I am (America or China) and whether they see my as “American” or “Asian,” I try to blend in with their speech manner and lingo usage, and stand ready to give a helping hand whenever possible. I want to convey that I understand and can connect with them at their level.

This was certainly a challenge at first. But it became easier over time with practice and awareness that people everywhere welcome others who want to first blend in.

Stand Out

After establishing rapport, I move circumspectly to voice what distinguishes me from my peers or surrounding – whether it’s in my school, workplace, neighborhood or community. What distinguishes each of us from others is our authentic self and style of communication. Whether it is through your words, your voice, your fashion style, your  music (piano or drum) your hobbies (yoga, tennis, painting, cooking) or your choice of volunteer activities, you are communicating what makes you tick. Introducing and distinguishing yourself through any of these forms of personal touch sets you apart.

Over the years, my piano playing has always gotten attention from neighbors or passers-by not because I am so spectacular, but more because I fearlessly pour my heart into doing something I love and expressing myself freely (in this case – playing the piano) that they see as different and difficult. That also becomes a conversation topic, a bond-builder. 

Exit Gracefully

Whether we are cognizant of it or not, we are constantly starting something new (a job or a relationship) or in transition between jobs, relationships or locations. Therefore, we are always moving on. Previously as an employee and now as a media company owner and entrepreneur, I have experienced that how I first get attention from someone also sets me up for keeping that first impression. It’s important to leave with gratitude and grace.

There are multiple ways to express our gratitude from a “Thank you email” to a “Thank you card.”  Following up before leaving a commitment will get you noticed as a graceful person. And that is the most valuable currency anyone can pay you.

Mable, New York

Mable Chan

Mable Chan is the founder of China Personified. Her contact is