Creating Favorable Attention

Do you know how to effectively converse with others? Fred Smith gives helpful and practical advice.

By Fred Smith

Unfavorable attention isn't just the opposite of favorable. For example, a punctual person is not noticed nearly as much as one who is consistently late. A person who discourteously interrupts, yawns, dresses inappropriately or consistently exaggerates draws a great deal of unfavorable attention. Personal mannerisms sometimes become unpleasant. It is good to talk to your closest friends about any of these and see if you have developed habits that draw unfavorable attention. Most of us have some which we need to correct. But most of us are unaware.

Bill Russell, the great basketball player and coach, said the first thing a player in his first All-Pro game thinks about is avoiding a mistake and looking foolish. As soon as he gets into the game and becomes comfortable, then he goes for the big play. Those in social or business situations who are nervous or insecure need to follow this same advice of programming to avoid unfavorable impressions.

Unfortunately our media-hyped culture has developed the concept that all attention is good….. "just spell my name right!" Since most of us are not Hollywood stars and do not hire press agents, we need to make sure that our press coverage is favorable. Careers can hinge on minor faux pas as well as major gaffes.

Often we are so anxious to get into the conversation that we come in clumsily on our left foot. Knowing this about ourselves, we should program ourselves for quietness, depending on attentive listening until we become comfortable. A capable middle management executive whom I have known will probably never make top management simply because he ruins himself in the first two minutes of nearly every conversation. He is basically insecure personally though not professionally and he will make some sarcastic remark about others in the group as he meets them. If he could only program himself to keep quiet or to say constructive things even if he had to rehearse them could make a significant difference in his career.

Competitive --- or, worse, combative --- remarks in the beginning of a conversation, especially with those with whom we are not particularly familiar, is like a movie cowboy coming through the swinging doors of the saloon shouting, "I can whip any man here."

On the other hand, it's almost as unimpressive to have the insecure berate themselves. Self-effacing remarks are meant to dispel nervousness, but they create a negative impression. Accepting compliments is an important skill to develop. One woman I knew demonstrated the power of this skill. When complimented she would say, "thank you so much. I'll remember your compliment every time I wear this dress." She accepted praise by making it about the other person. In accepting she was receiving favorable attention; efforts to deflect receive unfavorable attention.

Poise demonstrates control. Gaining favorable attention means managing any habits that result in unfavorable attention. Practice pays.