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social injustice


What the Heck is Favorable Attention?

“What the heck is favorable attention?” a friend asked me today.  My respond was simply:  “It’s a conversational game-changer.”

Of course, this begged more question, so I commenced with a more in depth explanation along with some examples.  Favorable Attention is all about appealing to your listener’s pride.  So what does appeal to pride mean?  Look for something that is of importance to your listener and compliment them on it.  For example, did a positive change recently occur in the life of the person you’re talking with?  This could be a new job, promotion, engagement, new home, recent vacation, accomplishment of a goal, new car, etc.  Or is there a known quality about that person that you admire?  If any of these exist, acknowledge and compliment them on it.  One of the best examples of this is actually given in my book “The Diamond Thieves” of the Extra Innings trilogy when the character Pastor Cook is trying to get the attention of the adults who are in an uproar over T.J. playing in the 4th of July baseball game because T.J. is black and their sons are white.  (Remember this trilogy takes place during the late 1940’s to early 50’s in the Deep South and encompasses the theme of social injustice.  Cook compliments the feuding men by calling them “intelligent men” and goes a step further by acknowledging that “everyone here knows that about you.”

Imagine the opposite.  What would happen if you’re initiating your conversations with an insult?   Immediately, your listener would become defensive.  For example, if a manager or supervisor was trying to counsel an unproductive or insubordinate employee and starts off the conversation with:  “I don’t know what’s come over you?  You use to be our top producer and lately you’re sales are worse than some of our newbies.”  Versus if the boss starts the counseling like this:  “You have more integrity than most anyone I’ve ever worked with and historically, I can always rely on you for outstanding results.  Help me to understand what’s been getting in the way of your performance lately and let’s see if we can work together to get you back on track.”   You’ve appealed to the listener’s pride by complimenting them on their integrity and past reliability to perform.  There is nothing about this sentence that would trigger the listener to become defensive.  This allows them to continue the coaching session with an open mind and without the distraction of a defensive wall.

My father, Wes Gibson is who taught me about Favorable Attention.  He was a VP with Goodyear and is a master at this skill.  He learned it from his father, my grandfather, Charles Gibson who had a successful career with the Singer Sewing Company.  This skill, like most, is not developed overnight.  It takes continuous practice.  When mastered, it will take your conversation skills to a whole new level and allow you to leverage any conversation to ensure that your listener receives a clear message from you with fewer distractions.  It also allows the listener to walk away feeling good about the conversation.  Remember the Maya Angelou quote from my last blog “A Writer’s Worth of Mouth.”  Maya said: “People will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  So why not say something that makes them feel good about themselves.  This will also keep you in a positive light in their mind and allow for a better connection between you and them.  Appeal to their pride with a compliment and this will gain you the Favorable Attention you need to make a more positive lasting impression and get your message across without any major roadblocks.


How To Connect When You Have Nothing in Common

Ever been with a group of people that all of a sudden they all disperse and you’re left standing or sitting there with someone you don’t know or know that you share nothing in common?  Awkward isn’t it?   Often times we’re not quick on our feet or crafty at striking up an interesting enough conversation to squash the uncomfortable silence.  The solution to this problem lies in the first half of my Mission Statement which is “To Connect and Inspire.”  A good rule of thumb is to be more interested than interesting.  Move in quickly (the sooner the better) with a good question to find out more about the person.  Ask about their interests, listen, respond to show that you are listening and then proceed with another question that’s pertinent to how they answered the first question.  Hopefully, even though you may know nothing about what interests them, it’s something that you’re able to be genuinely interested in or else you’re going to be bored to tears (which may, in fact, be the lesser of the two evils versus the previous awkward silence).

Remember: People love to hear themselves talk and they love talking about themselves.  So be the proactive one and ask them a compelling question.  Over time you’ll develop this skill and be able to ask questions that will guide the conversation into a topic that interests you as well.   A key driver of this skill is imagination.  A compelling imagination will help you ask a more interesting question that leads to a more interesting conversation.

Writers are gifted with a vast imagination.  So, whether they know it or not, they would be very good at coming up with compelling questions.  Actors too.  Think about it, a writer often writes about or an actor may have to play a character with whom they have nothing in common.  So how do they do this so well?  You have to be willing to learn new things.  If the person you’re standing there alone with is talking about things that don’t interest you all it takes is an open mind to be able to connect with them.   Being open-minded comes with some great benefits!  The more open-minded you are the more people you will connect with and who knows where one of those connections will take you one day.  For example, it might just skyrocket your career.

NBC ran series of public service announcement entitled “The More You Know” encouraging parents to be more involved in their children’s education.  This trains young people to be more open-minded.  Research shows that communities that support multicultural studies have a significant reduction acts of prejudice and racial injustice.  These topics are themes in my Extra Inning trilogy with a particular focus during the baseball game in the first book ‘The Diamond Thieves.’

Considering the time period (Cold War) and location (Deep South) of the Extra Innings series, I felt it was critical to include these topics in the story.  I’m a white male, so I’ve never personally faced what a black has faced in terms of unfair or unjust treatment because of the color of his skin.  I’ve always had a very diverse pool of friends and enjoyed engaging in conversations that some may find uncomfortable.  These connections have educated me on the topic of discrimination and social injustice.  I am very interested in this topic.

For some, making these sort of connections may not come easy but, again, it’s all about keeping an open mind.  In the end, you’ll be amazed with the new and cherished relationships you’ll establish by keeping an open mind and showing a sincere interest in what’s important in that individual’s life.