Improving your life starts with nurturing your relationships, and the Ladder of Attention offers a valuable framework to guide you on this journey. As a synthesis of practical themes from the book “Attention Reframed”, this powerful tool helps you categorize your relationships and better manage your interactions with those in your social network.
By understanding the Ladder of Attention and its 10-step structure, you can start to transform your relationships and enhance your overall quality of life. Although the full comprehension of this tool may require reading the book, the Ladder of Attention provides a glimpse into the potential for growth and improvement in your connections with others.
Join thousands of others who have benefited from this insightful resource, and start using the Ladder of Attention today.
Here’s the excerpt from Chapter 7 that delves into the Ladder of Attention. Dive in and enjoy!
Ladder of Attention
The varying stages of quality of attention, which we will refer to as our Ladder of Attention, are influenced by the state of attention we hold when we approach someone, and whether it is present or predisposed. We’ll refer to these as the Present State and the Predisposition State (which we will delve into in the next chapter). As I have mentioned, it took me a long time to understand these concepts. I wanted to define the various stages of the Ladder of Attention in a way that made them intuitive and easy to understand. I also wanted them to be memorable.
Here is what I came up with:
Starting from the bottom, negative end of the scale, we have: Ostracism, Hate, Disdain, Intolerance, and Tolerance.
The ladder then passes into the positive end of the scale: Respect, Admiration/Like, Appreciation, Esteem, Affection, and, at the top, Love.
The degree of quality attention we give to someone depends on where they fall on this scale – how you define the relationship. It really is that simple.
Now, I must ask you a favor. Please erase from your mind any preconceptions you may have about what each of these terms mean. If you refer to your own personal definition, you will probably be confused as to why some terms are higher up the ladder than others. For some, admiration might be higher than esteem, or disdain might be lower than ostracism. But that is not the point. From a philosophical point of view, we could analyze each one of these concepts, focus on their etymology, and present what their real meaning is. However, this would be counterproductive for understanding the scale of attention right now. What is important here is that you see that there are different levels of attention that you give to and receive from others, and that you can categorize each of your relationships according to the steps of the ladder.
As we will see in the coming chapters, the definitions of each concept and the reasons for being placed where they are on the ladder make sense once you understand each of the variables involved. For now, it does not matter whether you agree with the order of my scale and where each term has been placed. Please just focus on how the degrees of quality attention range from 0 to 10 on the ladder and I will explain what it all means shortly. This will help
you understand the fundamental basis of my theory: that there is a ladder of attention, ranging from 0 to 10 (0-4 negative; 5-10 positive) with a name and description attached to each step (I have included the numbers to help you remember the rising scale of importance, as the descriptions themselves may not be as memorable).
The Ladder of Attention is a visual representation of our varying degrees of relationships in life. As you would expect, the bottom of the ladder consists of our negative and toxic relationships and the top of the ladder represents those with whom we are closest to and who we invest the most resources in. This ladder forms the foundation of my entire theory, so if there is one thing you take away from this book, it should be this. It is also fairly easy to explain and understand, so it could be a great conversation started at your next family gathering or dinner with friends as it can be jotted down on a napkin quite easily.
We have to understand that where a relationship lies on the Ladder of Attention depends on the person in question as a whole, not just their behavior, actions, ideas or background. For instance, you can become intolerant of a friend who has drunk too much, but it does not mean that you will judge them on that one incident and be unable to tolerate them as a person. You will weigh up the drunken behavior against all other interactions with that person and, overall, you will probably still perceive them at a level of Esteem or Affection. Temporary attitudes and behaviors are useful for calculating how much attention you will provide in the moment, but they are not, in themselves, enough for you to determine your predisposed level of attention towards them. For example, you tolerate certain undesirable behaviors from your children and still perceive them at a level of Love, or you can be Intolerant of someone’s views and still Respect them as a person. All this will become clearer later in the book when we look at predisposed vs present states of attention.
For now, to help us grasp the main division between our attention levels, generally speaking, those people we don’t consider a part of our “group”, or who we perceive as a threat to our health, happiness and wellbeing, tend to fall somewhere on the negative end of the ladder. We think of those people as “Them”. And those we do see as being part of our group, that help us survive, procreate and be happy, fall somewhere on the positive end of the ladder. We think of these people as “Us”.
In following chapters, we will get a deeper understanding of each level of attention on the ladder. For now, let’s look at a short definition of each term to give us an overview of what’s coming.
Let’s start with the negative end of the Ladder of Attention:
Ostracism (0): a form of indifference closely related to hate. When you cause someone physical or emotional harm or social injury by actively ignoring or excluding them from your attention or that of a society or a social group. Also includes Hate, Disdain and Intolerance.
Hate (1): those you have an intense dislike for. Those who hold no value for you and who you may want to cause social, financial, psychological or physical harm to. Also includes Disdain and Intolerance.
Contempt (2): those you consider unworthy of your consideration or respect and who provoke you anger or disgust. Those you treat with disdain and whose happiness is not important to you. Also includes Intolerance.
Intolerance (3): those you see no value in tolerating them and whose views, beliefs, or behaviors differ from your own morals, norms and values.
Tolerance (4): those you consider as being part of “Them”. They are not part of your group, and you dislike or disagree with them, but you put up with their opinions and behaviors to protect your interests (financial, social, political, legal). In other words, those you put up with because you have no other choice.
Now let’s look at the positive end of the Ladder of Attention. For these steps, we will also look at what social groups are usually related to each step in the ladder:
Respect (5): those you consider as being part of “Us”. Those you appreciate for their abilities, qualities, or achievements, and who you perceive as having dignity and an identity.
Usually includes members of your community and certain groups in your society.
Admiration/Like (6): those who stand out from the crowd whom you warmly approve of and trust as they have something you need, enjoy or desire for your survival, procreation or happiness. Also includes Respect.
Usually includes members of your professional network and acquaintances.
Appreciation (7): those whom you trust as a person and whose company you recognize, appreciate, and enjoy, but do not actively seek. Also includes Admiration.
Usually includes extended family and casual friends.
Esteem (8): those whose company you actively seek and enjoy and whose wellbeing you care about. Also includes Appreciation.
Usually includes extended family (uncles and cousins) and close friends.
Affection (9): those whose wellbeing you are concerned about and feel affected by, and who you would support in the event of emotional, psychological and / or financial distress. Also includes Esteem.
Usually includes your close extended family (siblings and grandparents) and intimate friends.
Love (10): those you have an intense emotional bond with and whose happiness and wellbeing you feel responsible for and nurture. Also includes Affection.
Usually includes your spouse or partner, your children, your parents, and your closest intimate friends.
We will delve deeper into each term in the coming chapters and understanding these concepts and where they lie on the ladder will help you better manage all your relationships as well as your daily personal and professional interactions. It will also help you identify what level of attention you should be giving to a specific person at a given time to help you prioritize your resources and build stronger and more fulfilling relationships.