Trying to get colleagues to listen is like herding cats; you just can’t seem to keep their attention.

The range of ramifications of getting distracted are enormous. From HSE risks to endless squabbles, being able to hold your team’s attention is crucial to your business.

The reason why this task is reminiscent of trying to control unruly children, is because human beings follow an attention hierarchy that defies age. This is called DIP/PIN.

DIP/PIN is an acronym for:
• Dangerous
• Important
• Pleasure/Pain
• Interesting
• Neutral

In terms of ranking, Dangerous situations/subjects capture the longest attention, while Neutral situations/subjects hold the shortest.

In order to have the attention of your listener, gauge where they currently are and move them up the hierarchy one level at a time until they reach where you want them to be.

For example, if the meeting you are running has gone dry (Neutral Stage) inject an element of Interest such as the latest update on Bitcoin. Allow the audience to discuss it until it reaches the climax of the conversation. And then, move them up to the next level by announcing something Pleasurable or Painful such as “If you had invested $100 in Bitcoin in 2010, it would be worth over $28,000,000 today”. Allow the audience to discuss that among themselves. Once that’s done, here is where you want to introduce what’s most Important, which is the topic of the conversation.

This concept applies to any setting imaginable. At a dinner party you want to engage your listener at the Interesting level. At a charity drive you may want to remain at Pain. Depending on which level you want to take the listener, all you have to do is take them there one level at a time.

What happens if you skip levels? You basically lose your audience because you disrupted the natural flow of the conversation, and if you take them down a level, they’ll shut down. An classic example of this is when you are completely engrossed in a book (Pleasure) only to get interrupted by your partner to show you a funny viral video (Interesting).

What’s important to keep in mind is that Dangerous situations/subjects will always grab attention due to the fight/flight reaction it evokes. But be wary of crying Wolf! every time you want your audience’s attention. As the moral of the story goes, they’ll never want to listen to you again.

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