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Attention Direction Filter – Sorting by Self or Others

The attention direction filter is about the investment of our attention with respect to self or others. Do you mostly put your attention on the needs of others, or your own needs? If there is a conflict of interest, whose needs are attended to? Do you take care of your own needs first, or last?

As with any filter, certain things do not get through. A coffee filter keeps out the grounds and lets through the liquid. A rigid attention filter keeps out the awareness of either the other person’s needs or your own. Most people can only attend to either at any one moment in time. It is possible to switch from one to the other quickly.

attention direction scale

Sorting by Self

Healthy humans have the ability to attend to their own needs. They are in tune with their own thoughts, feelings, beliefs, preferences, ideas, wants and needs. When my attention direction is on self, I am evaluating information based on how it affects me. I then make decisions about what is good for me personally in the long and/or short term.

My motivations are my own, and I can choose my own actions. I also take responsibility for satisfying my own needs and expect others to do the same.

Extreme self attention direction

An extreme sort by self will find most relationships difficult, whether as a team member, employee, partner, parent or neighbor. If I am unable also to consider the consequences of my actions and decisions on others, it can create difficulties in my relationships.

An inability to notice the cues and body language of others (facial expressions, mannerisms and voice tone) can prevent someone paying attention to others. They just do not notice that the other is bored, angry, interested, or in a hurry. This would not be good for customer service roles, but fine in very technical roles with little people interaction.

These people prefer interacting with computers or machinery rather than people. They interpret their inability to get rapport, as “people don’t make sense”. They also believe everyone acts in their own selfish best interest. If I do something for you, it’s because I am benefiting, not you. Their world is one of balance sheet relating. They cannot understand any kind of self-sacrifice or random acts of kindness.

NLP also calls sorting by self 1st position in the technique of triple perspectives.

Sorting by Others

When I am sorting by others, I am attending to what others value, believe, think, feel, need and want. This ability is essential to working and getting on with others, particularly in any kind of leadership, coaching or counseling role.

Nurturing, valuing and developing others, whether it is children, customers or employees is a long-term relationship development strategy as well as a way to feel good. One of the powerful ways to overcome depression is to stop focusing on your own miserable self and help other beings who are worse off.

Considering the consequences of your actions and decisions on other people enables consultation and participation. Noticing the effect of my communication enables rapport.

Extreme others attention direction

An extreme sort by others can neglect their own needs and wants. They can ignore their own dissatisfaction by continually defaulting to the needs of others until it explodes.

Many women, particularly after becoming mothers can lose touch with their own values, desires and needs. In turn, this can lead to a lack confidence and vitality. Knowing what you want is an important foundation for trusting and expanding self.

See also Shelle Rose Charvet’s discussion of the attention direction filter in Words That Change Minds

NLP also calls sorting by others 2nd position in the technique of Triple Perspectives

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