Chapter 2: Privileged Moments
What a person focuses on, they make decisions about.
If I asked you – “Do you consider yourself helpful?” your brain looks to confirm all the times in your life you’ve been helpful.
Most people will invariably nominate themselves as helpful because they recall a time.
They say “yes” – then you have a window where you submit your request for them to help you in some way and they assent. If you were to submit your request an hour later, or a day later, they may say no – but right after asking is the privileged moment for them to assent to your request.
The scientific name is the “positive test strategy”
Which says: In deciding whether a possibility is correct, people typically look for hits rather than misses; for confirmations of the idea rather than disconfirmations. It’s easier to register the presence of something than its absence.
If I inquired whether you were unhappy in, let’s say, the social arena, your natural tendency to hunt for confirmations rather than for disconfirmations of the possibility would lead you to find more proof of discontent than if I asked whether you were happy there.
What does this mean?
Single chute questions of this sort can get you both to mistake and misstate your position. This is called target chuting, or giving someone ONE option when asking the question which leads them to the answer you’d like.
One major thesis of this book: Frequently the factor most likely to determine a person’s choice in a situation is not the one that counsels most wisely there; it is the one that has been elevated in attention (and, thereby, in privilege) at the time of the decision.
If you wish to change another’s behavior, you must first change some existing featured of that person so that it fits with the behavior.
When asked a single chute question, people will always find a way to answer in the affirmative.
The answer to this phenomena has to do with the ruthlessness of channeled attention which not only promotes the now-focal aspect of the situation but also suppresses all competing aspects of it – even critically important ones.
When attention is paid to something, the price is attention lost to something else. We can only register one track of information at a time even if there are multiple tracks in our head.
Multi-tasking = rapidly shifting focus from one track to another, not focusing on more than one at a time.
For half a second during a shift of focus, we experience a mental dead spot, called an attentional blink, when we can’t register newly highlighted information consciously.
Milton Erickson was famous for orchestrating the nonverbal elements of effective therapy by timing his questions and and insights with very noisy distractions, speaking lower, and forcing the client to lean in and pay attention, knowing that they can only focus on one thing, the leaning in suggested they were blocking out everything else and only listening to him.
There are numerous other ways for communicators to get an audience to assign special attention and, consequently, special import to an idea or item.