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Feeling Ignored Devalued and Invalidated? 5 Step Formula to Get Attention

The power of springboard stories

listening attentively
Photo by Sinitta Leunen on Unsplash

I’m sure it’s happened to you … at least once.

It’s that moment when you call for help … and you get a busy signal.

The person you called is preoccupied. She’s thinking about what’s upsetting her. She’s in her own head, in her own little world, in her own cesspool of problems.

So, she’s not listening … to you.

But you need her help. NOW! ASAP!

So, how do you get someone to care, to pay attention, to take your problem seriously enough to listen?

Here’s a 5 step formula for getting attention … and getting a positive response — getting the help you need — when seeking to communicate with others who are distracted or disinterested.

Step 1. Disruption

In Made to Stick, Chip Heath and Dan Heath say,

“ the first problem of communication is getting someone’s attention.”

They say many people who feel ignored start demanding that other people pay attention to them. But Chip and Dan claim, “we can’t demand attention. We must attract it.” And “the most basic way to get someone’s attention is this: Break a pattern.

For according to Chip and Dan, we often tune things out of our awareness because we are so used to hearing the same things, day after day. But we become “consciously aware” of people and things in our life “only when something changes.

So, if you want attention, change your approach.

If you have been demanding attention, give it instead. If you have said the same things repeatedly, say and do something different. In fact,

“do something surprising.” Chip and Dan advise.

So, say something unexpected. Something even a bit bizarre.

Something like, “I must have been hearing things again. I thought I heard an angel speaking to me.”

This may just become the spark of surprise that lights the lightbulb of worry in your daughter’s mind. And gets her attention.

”Surprise jolts us to attention, “ say Chip and Dan. “Surprise acts as a kind of emergency override when we confront something unexpected and our guessing machine fails. Things come to a halt, ongoing activities are interrupted. And our attention focuses involuntarily on the event that surprises us.”

Step 2. Tell a story.

“Stories make people thirsty,” says copywriter Jim Edwards.” It makes them thirsty to hear more.

But you don’t tell just any story, says Edwards. You “tell a story that illustrates your point.”

Chip and Dan say, “Surprise isn’t enough. We also need insight.” For you want your idea to be sticky enough to get attention and sticky enough to keep attention. So, you “use that surprise to reinforce [your] core message,” say Chip and Dan. “Using surprise in the service of a core message can be extremely powerful.”

So, you tell a story that is related to the surprise, as well as the message you want to communicate.

If it’s one of your grown kids who isn’t listening, you could begin a story. “I know you’re having a difficult time, too. But imagine you’re all alone in the world. And each day is a struggle. You’re in a dark place. And you’re scared of the dark. But there’s no one around you who can ask to help you. And even if there was, you’d be too scared to ask them.

“Then, out of nowhere, an angel appears. She holds out her hand, touches you on the shoulder, and says,” I’m here to help you. What can I do for you?”

And as Chip and Dan say, “By making a claim tangible and concrete, details make it seem more real, more believable.” Details have a “big impact.”

Step 3 . The Turning Point

You’ve addressed the core message, the message of loneliness, despair, and the hope for help.

Now you pull the rug out from under her with sudden change. A sudden reversal of the scene throws her for a loop. That jolts her out of her sleepwalk.

You ask:

“Would you jerk away from her hand, tell her, “go to hell!” and get up and walk deeper into the darkness?”

This is one of those questions that arouses the WHAT question we all start asking ourselves when we find ourselves in a dilemma and all the possibilities are going through our heads.

We ask WHAT … What Happens After That? What will our future look like then? What will happen if we don’t get help?

For this is the ‘Turning Point’ in the story that offers her insight into her behavior. It is the point that offers a change in her perspective.

For your story is what Stephen Denning calls a “springboard story” in The Springboard, say Chip and Dan.

“A springboard story is a story that lets people see how an existing problem might change. Springboard stories tell people about possibilities.”

Quoting Denning, they say springboard stories “elicit the listener’s thinking indirectly” instead of hitting them in the face. For if you deliver a direct punch, they fight back. But with a story, you “engage the little voice inside their heads” and ”you work in harmony with it.”

So, your listener starts listening to the little voice inside her that questions the path she is on. That asks WHAT? What Happens After That? And that question ignites the images of the consequences that pop up in her mind, involuntarily.

And often they are quite disturbing pictures of being alone. Of dying alone. So, she starts looking for a solution. Starts looking for better answers.

Step 4. The Solution

Then you give her one.

You say:

“Or would you instead be happy if an angel helped you if you were all alone in the world? Would you suddenly feel glad you weren’t alone anymore? Would you feel your pain has lessened and you suddenly felt happy to see the stars in the deep dark sky? Your prayers for help were answered. And you gratefully accepted the help of an angel.”

“Springboard stories motivate people to act,” say Chip and Dan. “Stories focus people on potential solutions.” Telling springboard stories “shifts the audience into a problem-solving mode.”

But, according to Chip and Dan, “springboard stories go beyond having us problem-solve for the main character. A springboard story helps us problem-solve for ourselves.” They do that by “reflect[ing] your core message.”

Step 5. You Ask for Help

You now can ask your daughter, “Would you be that angel in my life? Would you be an angel and help me?”

As Chip and Dan say, “it’s not enough to tell a great story; the story has to reflect your agenda.”

The story you tell has to be relatable to your problem and offer the solution to your problem in a way that is emotionally appealing to your listener.

The story is your way of persuading others to see things from your perspective without them devaluing what you say. Or worse, feeling blame and guilt and then resisting and fighting back.

Instead of Fighting Back

“Stories have the amazing dual power to simulate and to inspire,” say Chip and Dan.

So, the next time you feel your needs are being devalued and you feel invalidated, don’t get down on yourself. Or on others. Instead of fighting back, use a story to serve your own agenda.

Try this story and see what happens.

Or better yet … come up with your own story. Just make sure your story reflects the core message that you want to communicate.

The more you practice telling stories, the more adept you will become. You may even become one of the great persuaders, someone who helps others understand themselves better while getting what you want and need, too.



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Kathy G Lynch

Kathy G Lynch

Kathy G. wants to show farmer's daughters how to become successful writers even in this highly competive world