How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)

We can track components of our attention through exploring our states and we can explore our states using attention. We have already discussed state dependent learning in the context of having access to different resources and information in different states. With well integrated, readily accessible states there is overlap between resources and their availability and this includes qualities of attention. In dissociated states, there is limited overlap to resources cached in other states. This is evidenced by lack of access to memories acquired within dissociated states, except when we return to the state in question.

We know the quality of our attention is influenced by our state. We also know that effective learning takes place when we are interested in something and curious to find out more. A state that includes curiosity and interest leads us to attend externally in all senses as we engage with the interesting material we have found.

“We know the quality of our attention is influenced by our state.”

When our attention gravitates effortlessly to the subject matter, we learn thoroughly and willingly. Learning happens seamlessly and we read, listen and attend with pleasure. This applies to anything we find engaging, from formally presented material to informally shared skills and conversations with interesting and fascinating people.

There are many occasions in life when it would be useful to create a state of effortless engagement; when our attention is naturally external and demonstrably with a person or what they are doing and saying. This is the foundation of establishing and maintaining rapport with people as well as the means for learning anything we need to master.

Rapport is the art of engaging and holding the unconscious attention of another person. This is done most effectively by engaging and holding our own attention on that person and what they are discussing. We attend to seeing and hearing them, not running internal movies and soundtracks about the discussion. The same applies to making learning interesting and therefore memorable. When we attend to the presentation in front of us with open eyes and ears, we record the material for future consideration and application. If we are running internal movies and soundtracks or talking to ourselves, we block the input channels and miss much of what is on offer.

“Rapport is the art of engaging and holding the unconscious attention of another person.”

When we create a deliberate state of Being interested by acting ‘as if’ we are interested, natural interest tends to follow. Equally, when we decide to attend externally with eyes an ears and sometimes hands, engagement follows. We take these actions by attending to, or being aware of how we are using our attention and what we are attending to at any given time.


Learning dull or outdated material to be allowed to progress to a qualification you want or need. Setting up useful frames, states and attention.

Create a real, multi-sensory, lifelike representation, ‘as if’ you are there, reaping the benefits of having the qualification or prerequisite you needed. Enjoy the experience of learning what you want to learn or doing the work you want to do. Remember that you would not have been able to do that without obtaining the prerequisite (dull) credential with which you have been struggling. Your attention in this exercise is on the ‘as if’ experience, seeing represented, lifelike surroundings and activities as if you were present. You hear conversation, background sounds and sounds associated with the activities. You feel the clothes on your body, the floor under your feet, whatever is in your hands and the air temperature on your skin. When this experience is complete, return your attention to the present, knowing you can remember your ‘as if’ experience any time you need to encourage and motivate yourself to keep going with the dull stuff.

In the present, how can you frame the dull, outdated or incomprehensible material you have to learn? Your outcome is to make it interesting, fun to learn (this is possible) and memorable, at least for the duration of the program. If you enjoy history, you could frame it as “This is what they used to believe, now”. If it has mathematical elements and you enjoy languages, treat maths as a language. Learn the rules that govern your subject, familiarise yourself with formulae as if they were rules of grammar and then the examples you are offered will make sense. If you enjoy dance, frame your dull studies as choreography. If you are fascinated by patterns, find the patterns that govern your subject and learn examples from the patterns. You can do this by taking three or four examples from the material in your course and determining the common set of information that governs them. This is the frame for bringing learning specific material to life. Your frame should include the function and utility of the learning material.

When you create a frame that appeals to you, it is easier to become interested and possibly even fascinated. When you are interested, you attend in class with open channels (see, hear, feel), take in the material and then retain it. You can contemplate it outside class and develop any further understanding you need. Even your personal nemesis can become possible with suitable framing and attention. A side benefit is that you will have better rapport with your teachers, who will be more willing to give you extra time when you need it. Any time your attention drifts off topic, remember your outcome for learning this material.

Developing Rapport Quickly and Effectively

When people learn to develop rapport formally, their attention is drawn to specific behaviour which is supposed to increase the likelihood of rapport. They are instructed to imitate what someone else is doing, called matching or mirroring for short moments of time, or pacing when matching is engaged over minutes. When rapport is present, we often see people matching each other’s behaviour naturally. Matching and pacing is evidence for the presence of rapport between two or more people, but not necessarily the best method of learning to create rapport.

Matching and pacing require us to use a lot of attention to keep track of someone else’s movements, posture, voice tones, pitch and rhythm. This leaves precious little available to engage with the other person and the quality of these interactions can appear forced.

It is much smoother to act as if fascinated or interested in the other person and their conversation or instruction; just as you do to facilitate your learning. The quality of the conversation will be higher, the result more memorable and rapport will follow. Simply engage with external attention and the intention to be interested. You probably know your intention for engaging with the other person already, so you have a frame for acting ‘as if’ until it becomes real. Again, this is similar to a learning scenario. You have a frame for finding someone or something interesting, a state of being interested and external attention in all senses.

In Conclusion

You can discover how you are using your attention in the moment or by reviewing an event or context. Are you using your senses to attend externally or your representations of memory or imagination? Are you talking to yourself and if so, is it useful? Do you want open input channels or does the context require you to think, using internal processing? Are you engaging your unconscious resources and or conscious attention? Are you distracted by discomfort and if so, can you change it?

When you want to shift your attention, or part of it, you can act on it directly or via your state. When you want to access a resourceful state, you can find it from memory or use your attention to create one. There will be a more detailed and practical discussion on eliciting, accessing, creating and changing state available soon.

Attention Training

Learning how to organise attention to change state and how to use state to modify attention is referred to as “Attention Training” and is an important part of high quality NLP trainings. Attention training is part of syllabus of our postgraduate qualification in NLP – 10250NAT Graduate Certificate in Neuro-Linguistic Programming.

Attention Training Articles

  1. Apply leverage to your attention for productivity by choice
    by Jules Collingwood
  2. 5 elements to enhance the quality of your attention and further your outcomes
    by Jules Collingwood
  3. Creating meaningful change and altering the way you represent the world
    by Jules Collingwood
  4. How you attend to the world can transform your performance in it
    by Jules Collingwood
  5. How using your attention can change the quality of your states (and vice versa)
    by Jules Collingwood

(Note: If you would like to learn more about the New Code of NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE Pty Ltd.

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Effective Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

Daniel Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence in Business

from NYT Education Life (7th April 2015)

Today we are considering the last, of Goleman’s recommendations for effective leadership in business. Along with self awareness, self management and empathy (without joining others in lack of resources), there are:

Relationship Skills:

  1. “Compelling communication: You put your points in persuasive, clear, ways so that people are motivated as well as clear about expectations.
  2. Team playing: People feel relaxed working with you. One sign: They laugh, easily around you” Goleman (2015).

Relationship skills is a shorthand name for the skills that facilitate useful initial interactions and enable them to develop into freely chosen, functional, mutually satisfying ongoing relationships. Just because you are assigned to work with someone does not preclude the possibility of choosing their company and vice versa.

If you are going to develop a relationship with someone in any context, first you have to make their acquaintance and engage and hold their unconscious attention. This is called establishing rapport with someone. Rapport is not just for first time encounters. Each time you interact with someone, including loved ones, friends and long time colleagues, you need to engage and hold their unconscious attention, preferably willingly on their part.

“To engage and hold someone’s, unconscious attention. This is called establishing rapport.”

Rapport, like empathy, is subject to widespread misunderstanding. It is defined in the previous paragraph, yet many people think rapport is liking and being liked by someone, getting on well with someone, reducing perceptible differences between people, being like (similar to) someone and sharing similar views on important subjects.These experiences may follow from engaging and holding someone’s unconscious attention, but not necessarily.

You can observe rapport in action if you watch people when they are engaged with each other. You will see entrainment of the parties’ rhythms with each other. These include movement, posture, gestures, breathing, voice patterns, rate of speech and sometimes rate of blinking. Certainly, rapport is often taught at this level, but this makes it harder work to learn than necessary and too specific to keep enough attention free for the matter under discussion. Does this sound familiar?

The common feature when people are engaged with each other is interest. This can be interest in the individual, interest in the conversation and/or interest in the topic of conversation. The greater the interest, the quicker and smoother the development of rapport.Thus one person can initiate rapport with someone by showing interest and engagement in their behaviour. Most of the time it will be reciprocated. Demonstration of interest is worth learning. The result may not be instant, but perseverance for a few minutes should free up the interaction making it more comfortable for both parties so interest becomes more natural.

You can create a frame for yourself to facilitate interest for the sake of developing rapport. If you are discussing a boring topic, for example, make a point of discovering your intention for having the conversation. When you find an intention frame that you find worthwhile, that can spark a genuine interest.

A bright but bored medical student started earning unacceptable grades one year. He was told to shape up or be sent down from university. He wanted to join a particular speciality in medicine, but found the course content irrelevant. He loved history and anthropology, so he created a frame for 20th century medical training that said: This is what they used to believe, now. With awareness of his intention and a frame that invited interest in the work, his grades improved markedly. In the fullness of time he became a specialist in his chosen field where he made radical and far reaching contributions.

When you establish rapport with topics and subjects as well as individual people and groups, learning flows with less effort and greater retention. Work becomes more interesting and less of a chore and colleagues can be friends. This is quality of life at work. Rapport enhances the quality of your attention and the quality of your attention enhances rapport.

In the longer term as interactions develop into relationships, rapport continues to be necessary and with application, becomes habitual. This is the underpinning relationship skill. If you go back and review Goleman’s evidence for relationship skills, you will find that he is describing evidence of rapport.

Emotional Intelligence And The Quality Of your Life

To close the series, here is another frame on rapport and by extension, on self awareness, self management and empathy. All of these qualities, skills and attributes, when practiced and in use can contribute to our own sense of wellbeing. When we feel welcome with the people in our lives, we have a better experience with them than if we are on guard or expect unhelpful consequences. This does not detract from our varying needs for time alone, be it five minutes or most of life. When we deal with people, if they are well disposed towards us, we tend to have a better time. This is my frame for agreeing with Goleman’s recommendations. It is not a homily about what should be done. It is a recommendation for increasing your own quality of life.

At my own happiest workplace as an employee, I stayed longer than in any other job I have had because of the people. I started as a casual and had amazingly welcoming experiences on my first two days. By the end of three weeks I had a permanent position, expedited by my manager. I continued to feel welcome and appreciated for the whole time I was there. I only left because Inspiritive was granted RTO status and needed more of my attention.

Daniel Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence in Business Articles Series

  1. Goleman’s Four Components for Emotional Intelligence – Introduction
  2. Empathy and Emotional Intelligence
  3. Self awareness and Emotional Intelligence
  4. Self Management and Emotional Intelligence; Three attributes
  5. Effective Leadership and Emotional Intelligence

(Note: If you would like to learn more about Emotional Intelligence and NLP you can get a copy of  our latest Kindle book ‘AEGIS: Patterns for extending your reach in life, work & leisure’ by Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer. For only $4.99 here).

By Jules Collingwood, NLP Trainer at INSPIRITIVE.

If you found this article useful, share it!