Welcome to the course book 'How to Communicate' in 8 chapters. Write engaging documents and have enjoyable interactions with people in the kitchen, office or on stage.

Good communication can resolve any problem even among the cacophony of today's interactions. Conversations between people are at the root of all problems and also integral to solving them.

Please read the foreword first and then we wish you a fun journey in the art of communication.

Ideas on this site are free. What it took to get them to you is given freely also. In future we shall sell books and audio books.

4. Attention

Chapter 4 – Attention.
This chapter is long. It has much information and takes about 33 minutes to read out load. It’s pretty good going to manage it in one reading. There is a lot of information. It’s easier by far to remember continuously that it is all about ATTENTION. Every bit of this chapter.


Attention is at its most powerful and effective when it is undivided.

That’s both the attention of the talker and the talked to.
There is getting atttention and there is giving attention.

That’s why I covered intention first because you can either capture or attract attention and it helps a lot if you intend to do so. In fact intention is pivotal. When I’m lazy I work out ways to attract attention and when I’m focused on an objective I intend to capture the attention of who’s in my mind at the time. (the difference between waiting for someone to phone back and trying them again a few times – or more.

Conversation on the phone.
Jane & Shirley

Jane – “Oh hi there – how are YOU ?”
– “Oh I’m fine not exactly full of the joys of spring – in fact I think I missed the joys of Spring altogether – its well into the Summer”

Jane – “C’mon Shirley don’t say you have a new list of woes?”
– “Oh woes  – yes I have a dozen or so gruelling stories but no woes right now – no that’s not why I rang.”

Jane – ”I’m fine without blues for now – what’s up?”
– “Jane – Fancy going to a show tonight ? I was sent a site on Twitter where you can pick out what you want to see – the story, background, local info and pictures – a great map – lots of stuff – no bloody ads.

Jane – “Tonight? not sure but good idea…. When did we last see a play in town? Ok can you book three tickets ? – not cheapo ones I want to bring Bob Is that OK?”
– “Sure – By the way just google ‘Good Morning Miss Brown Taj Mahal – best blues on the subject I ever heard”.

Jane – “What on earth are you talking about?  What subject?
– “The Woes list – it’s really amusing”

Jane – “Hey Shirley what’s that site – I’d better pick a play. Tempted as I am to see Jean Luc Picard playing a tramp I want to see something cheerful.
– “You’d be lucky – all musical tragedies – there’s always Lion King or Mama Mia.
Jane – K -Catch you later – keep me posted. I’l bring the cash for the tickets Byee


How many ways did Shirly attract or capture Jane’sattention ?
How did she miss the mark and how did she succeed ?
Did Jane attract or capture Shirly’s attention ?

(If you are looking to look up answers somewhere – there aren’t any. My marvellous database is not the same as your equally amazing database in your mind – you can see what’s what for yourself.)

Multitasking started taking off in the eighties. Cost cutting Corporates latched on to the idea that since middle managers had the benefits of desk top publishing, email, spreadsheets and powerpoint,  why would they need their own secretaries any more?

Multitasking became all the rage. Wonder women were featured in magazines as women with families were seen as major breadwinners and shown in ads with one phone on each ear and a computer screen on an immaculate hotdesk.

Then productivity went down, staff turnover rose and stress levels soared – along with an accompanying absentee rate. PA’s were hired to be shared between many. The temping business rocketed as admin assistants were brought in just in time (or too late). The fact that assistants’ assistance helped the balance sheet with greater productivity, was recognised in the boardroom once more. Board members who lost their secretaries were the most sympathetic.

Now virtual assistants are proliferating on the Internet – people are getting help from folk they have never met.- often tracking a project by Skype, email and Twitter.  This is developing an even greater need for good communication. All the really successful large corporates stick to the common sense situation of one secretary behind every valued member of their company’s staff.

Multitasking  is even starting to get bad press as tests have shown the often disasterous effects of divided attention. It saps the energy of anyone struggling to attempt several tasks concurrently.

Focus and scheduling
A tip to maintain focus is to follow a schedule and you need focus to maintain the schedule in the first place. Attention wanders when a person is tired. It has been proven in university research studies that taking a break and re-focusing with revived energy is the most time efficient.  This is because maintaining focus keeps a person’s attention on the job.

In the competitive arena of business, communication can be more like a game of tennis when the parties are in competition to win – one against another.  Even in an openly competitive arena of a formal debate where each each motion FOR or AGANST an idea is discussed – like in parliament – formal rules are required to prevent the onlaught of a slanging match.


Debating rules were adapted and passed on to email lists in the days of Majordomo and Compuserve before the web was operative. Roughly they were like this:

• When you post to the list you are standing by what you say in the post in your own name or backing whatever you forward on to the list.

• State your name and working email address to be on this list. (False names are for places like chat rooms).

• This list is modified and uncensored.. No flaming. (flaming was blaming and insulting)

• If quoting someone or talking about a third party, always state your source if you want to be believed.
Unsupported statements (which could be blameful) are for the gutter press.

• Opinions are fine – however harsh – when claimed AS the opinion of the writer. Unless this is so the writer could be out of order with slander/ libel which was a ‘removal’ offence.

• Facts, when claimed as facts, can have references such as common wisdom, common law, historical timelines etc where it’s useful. no need to lumber the list with endless refs – a speaker or member of the list should provide these if questioned.  Unfounded waffledeblah (meaningless chit-chat) is considered bar (or coffee morning) talk.

• Very long emails were only acceptable if they contained a cut and paste of something referred to – simply to save you having to look it up. (mainly was prior to Google).

• Stay on topic.

Subject lines had to refer to the original thread.  If you changed a subject and thus left the topic then you had to change the subject line. 

• Check in the archive before asking a question.

• When you talked about someone on or off the list you were obliged to to copy them in to their own email address.

The original lists were a hotbed of learning and creativity in fields like electronic copyright, domain name organisation,  emerging multimedia and countless hardware and software lists which mostly progressed to forums.

Those old style lists soldier on in academia and  are still peopled by professors, lawyers, journalist and even the odd politician. Everyone was accountable on a list. and knew who each other were.

The ideas in the emails and information, point by point, were generally long shelf-life material. News was something else. A subject line of [say] ‘News about the new ceo’ Then it could become an ongoing topic – just facts and maybe dispatches.

Those rules worked well to make a list into a well of information – a library of value. Many of the induction emails were erudite, funny and even a little snobbish (as profs and techies can certainly be in their safe and well respected worlds)

Any attention helps the communication which is a one way process. It’s one way inasfar as it is the sole responsibiity of the person sending the idea to hit the mark. It is imperative therefore to ensure that you have the undivided (if possible) attention of the person you are talking to. “HEY Buster! I’m talking to you!

It will certainly go closer to the mark when the other person listens to you. Listening to you shows they are validating you and make you feel affirmed. it feels good to be heard.  At that point you have his full attention.. Now what?


Conversation from the Hitch Hikers’ Guide to the Galaxy

Number Two – “Don’t you want to interrogate the prisoners, sir?” he squaled.
The Captain peered at him in bemusement.
– “Why on Golgafrincham should I want to do that?” he asked.

Number Two – “To get information out of them, sir! To find out why they came here!”
– “Oh no, no, no,” said the Captain. “I expect they just dropped in for a quick jynnan tonnyx, don’t you?”

Number Two – “But they’re my prisoners! I must interrogate them!”
The Captain looked at them doubtfully.
– “Oh all right,” he said, “if you must. Ask them what they want to drink.”
A hard cold gleam came into Number Two’s eyes. He advanced slowly on Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent.
Number Two “All right, you scum,” he growled, “you vermin…” He jabbed Ford with the Kill-O-Zap gun.
– “Steady on, Number Two,” he admonished gently.

Number Two – “What do you want to drink?!!” he screamed.
– “Well the jynnan tonnyx sounds very nice to me, What about you, Arthur?”
Arthur – blinking.”What? Oh, er, yes,”
Number Two –
“With ice or without?!” he bellowed
Ford – Oh, with, please,”

Number Two – “Lemon??!!”
Ford – “Yes, please, and do you have any of those little biscuits? You know, the cheesey ones?”
Number Two
– “I’m asking the questions!!!!” he howled, his body shaking with apoplectic fury.

Exercise – re-read the above conversation  looking at the level of attention of the four subjects – The captain, Number Two, Ford Prefect and Arthur Dent.


There’s little doubt that one’s own attention can be captured by passing thoughts in one’s own mind.  These thoughts constantly invade the attention which is hard to resist because after all maybe there MAY be something relevant to the matter in hand. However, thoughts can be very unruly and suddenly appear – whoof and take your concentration to another place. The best thing is to make a RULE to regard them as immaterial and keep the mind at home and concentrating on the communication.

The more you try and banish them, the more they return with their attendants and bring more players to the procenium of your mind.
While slip into our own little mind-cinemas to re-run our past pleasures, the horror thoughts can invade the screen and fill our dreams by capturing our attention by night.

Our minds are equally captured by the hypnotics of the telly. For that is what they are – TV is laced with deliberate hypnotics. Advertising agencies discuss them over gin and tonics. I seek only to explain that when you understand the nature of undivided attention you open the doors to finding your voice.

Most of us have been brought up with a deep seated belief that seeking attention is bad. The Morty Lefkoe Institute has shown that these deep autopilot beliefs are easily dissolved and do actually stop the nagging (disapproving) voice in the head from dividing the attention from the subject being discussed. Seeking attention is fundamental to our survival and it is not ‘bad’ as such.

We naturally seek attention in thousands of ways with brightly coloured clothes and hair styles, flashy jewelry, makeup, perfume and possessions including trophy wives, husbands and animals.

Yet children want maximum attenton at all times so some of the restrictions imposed on children and parents against ‘attention seeking’ are thought to prevent bad behaviour in the process.

Speak harshly to your little boy and beat him when he sneezes
He only does it to annoy because he knows it teases”

Lewis Carrol’s parody was founded in fact. Any attention seeking was bad and this belief is rooted in our behaviour. Of course we have sales people, performers, politicians who sublimate our desire to find our own voices.

It is hardly surprising that most adults have some reticence to seeking attention. Greys and blacks are best selling clothes and in the best circles, anyone talking about their millions is deemed boastful and probably has an agenda.

Communication misses it’s mark through lack of attention
although people are polite enough to pretend to be attentive. They can chat while reading, practicing an instrument, reading email yet you instinctively know they are far away tantamount to being on the phone with someone else.

All the while every child develops filters to block out too much noise from outside – we all have to, only sometimes we overdo it.  We think we know that they are trying to influence us and we are wise to it so it doesn’t matter. Or does it?

Even though you don’t believe everything in the media  underneath you really do because as a young child you have seen so many adults giving the media reverent attention – that’s what it looked like as a child.
Dad immersed in a paper taking no notice of anyone at all. Mum staring at the telly and also happy that you do this as well – it keeps your attention focussed on something else while she can focus on cooking the dinner.

I am saying from my own experience that focussing the attention – I mean really really – releases energy. But Wait!
Hyperactivity (loads of energy) has been linked with attention deficit by the medics.

I believe these sufferers are fully focussed for as long as they want to be. All the energy they get compels them to find something else more interesting to focus on – including knocking over brother Billy’s tea.

Many have noticed the link between ‘attention’ and ‘energy’.
Most people aim to adapt their environment to be a neutral and therefore less distracting in order to do things which raise their energy. I found a lot of lists of energy raisers on the net and they are useful as a reminder.

Some say – wear noise cancelling headphones, clean up and empty the dustbin (subliminal smells of rot DO distrub the peace). Be warm or cool enough (unless you live in NY with no airconditioning), eat properly (whatever that is for you – personally

Scheduling is a must to be able to focus attention.  Here again it is a subject covered in many books. It cannot be learned by reading a book – only by doing it – because practice makes perfect.

The above recipe takes 12 minutes – 10 with practice and 15 for more people..  It can be slotted in to other tasks – for
example –

kitchen – turn on the oven, 2 mins slicing onions, 1 min putting the bird on it’s onion nest and 1 min spreading with coconut oil and kumin and stuffing with apples to keep the bird from drying.

desk – allocate 30 min slot for writing something

Kitchen – put a pan of water to boil while washing the veg 4 mins. Put unpeeled potatoes into the boiling water – and prep the veg 4 mins,  put parboiled potatoess in pan around the chicken. 2 mins (about 10 total)

desk –  schedule another 45 mins (or more if large chicken?) and then cook the veg. clear up while they are steaming or boiling. undivided attention is needed to prevent soggy over-cookedness.

Read all you can about exercise. Watch videos on it.  All of this helps you to literally programme yourself – or de-programme the gut wrenching apathy residual from watching [say] news on telly.

The only two ways I have found that work to keep me trim and as active as possible is to:
a) Stretch in the bath and in bed. Imagine yourself as a cat.
b) DO IT NOW. Whenever the thought occurs. The more exercise vids you watch the more often the thought will occur.

Move your face. Top stars do facial exercises all the time. Now that cameras are everywhere you can’t risk doing them in lifts with that big mirror. Someone will pop you on uTube in a twinkling. However you are safe at your desk – mostly.

There are your shoulders to move. If you hear any cracking noises go on until it stops. Concentrate, and you will find the way how to stop the cracking yourself.  It’s your body and it came with instructions – common sense – gut feel know-how.

Some, even respected conversations develop as so deep I hardly keep awake. When this happens I twist my ankles around very maximum stretch. It always works if I am interested enough to get myself to do it.

Hand stretching revives me too. And so it goes.

DANCE.  In your seat – right there. Here again no instructions needed. I find that a darkened window suits me best.  I dance in front of one and it lets me remember when I was dancing before.
Even dancing in front of the computer – head and shoulders with occasional arms.

A word of warning – when reading up on all of this, forget the ‘how nots’ and those lists of ‘10 big mistakes’ and how to ‘avoid 5 things’ . They will drain your energy.

For the purposes of this chapter on attention it is interesting to see how the idea of undivided or focussed attention can literally raise the energy especially if you are mindful of the clock.

Energy is a physical feeling in the physical world – that’s the thing to watch to measure or monitor the results of putting undivided attention on something then and there.

It’s an amazing feeling when we can see and feel the results of raised energy when all attend the same event – be it a Stones gig or a resounding football game. There’s certainly a blast of energy when everybody feels validated and affirmed all at the same moment.  It could be a goal or it could be a chord to bring all the attention together. Be they atheletes or musicians – they never seem to tire.

Michael Jackson said of his audience – “They are my food – this is my fuel

To summarise, When the person has your your attention when you speak to her, she will get what you are saying.

If you have the undivided attention of the person you are speaking to the communication can hit the mark.

I have covered emphasis under the chapter of spacing in the last chapter, which overlaps this to some extent, however for the purpose of this course,  we are taking emphasis as an attractor or a captivator of attention. Accentuation is the correct term which is where you place the accent on a word. This concept is too remote for me

In what I call middle-english – that spoken mostly on the BBC – the emphasis on the syllable indicates the accent. I am training two people in this particular aspect of speaking English. The aim is to play a ‘My Fair Lady’ game. I have written this book for them as course notes. That’s why I refer to it a course. Instruction in “I want to speak the ‘best’ English” is lost when comparisions between different accents take up too much time and energy debating the ‘correctness’ of an accent.

The clear rule is if you want to understandlisten and ask. If you want to be understood then listen to yourself and adjust your tone to suit the person you are talking to,

People with very pronounced accents are not clear to a large number of others so broadcasting in too ‘broad’ an accent will reach a narrower audience. Interestingly, the broader the accent  the more localised the way of speaking.

Listening is the pivotal point.  By actively, consciously listening to the person talking you are able to give your undivided attention.

Words can be written like this:

managerial and management, enthusiasm and enthusiastic
manaGERrial and MANagement, enTHUSiasm and enthusiASTic.

The voice rises on the emphasised syllables. Another way of stressing a part of a word is to draw it out slightly. They do that most noticeably in Texas and Ireland.

The more you are with someone the easier you understand them. This may be because your subconcious programmes are forming and assessing the sounds and the gestures of the companion. The first meeting is usualy a high attention moment.  The first few seconds are when the ‘first impression’ happens. It is easier to remember the first impression of a person than the impression you get the next time you meet. (unless of course if they cut their hair or he shaved off his beard).

Part of learning a manner of speech is copying by learning and observing. Memories are formed and recalled more easily when we are give something our undivided attention. That’s hard to do if we are frightened or defensive.

I recommend that the memory itself is given some undivided attention.  Memory courses are a good idea.  Tony Buzan has one based on the The Phonetic Peg Memory System. I studied this very hard at a time when I was so scatty I was always losing my keys. When I became a security member of the building I worked in, I had a great responsibility so I bought a ‘Heap’ course.  It made a profound difference after the first four chapters and through many mind aching sessions ‘trying to remember HOW to remember.

It was worth it, there is a Web site at the time of writing based on the original method that Heap used, called ‘The Number Thesarus’  (
This is packaged with no frills or any attempt to teach.  It is simply the information. What happens when you improve your memory is that you save time, become more prolific, stick to schedules more, don’t run out of milk…….. and you fill in the dots.

If you give this method your undivided attention for a period of time, learning languages – several languages could be an easy spin off if that is what you need to do. Our natural memory is sharpened under neccessity to do something for survival or to achieve a special objective that means a lot to us. We do things to gain attention from our peers / parents. Having a good memory won’t impress or get you any particular approval. besides the majority like having a poor memory – they have excuses, watch TV, they don’t give a damn.

It’s what happens when you have a keen memory that gains you approval and attention in bucket loads. You just do everything better and more efficiently. So to make it work you start remembering things.

Remembering is a hair’s breadth from knowing. You may have read a paper about organic composting. By remembering it when you hear of other references to same, you will become very knowledgeable.

By the way – here’s a cheerful thought – when have no immediate desire to do something then you will almost certainly find it difficult to do it. You avoid doing it by introducing other priorities for yourself.

‘Neccessity is the mother of invention’ Invention’s sister is Attention herself.