Grabbing someone’s attention isn’t easy these days. We’re drowning in stimulation (sights, smells, sounds) everywhere we turn and are bombarded by nearly 3,000 marketing messages daily, not to mention constant cell phone texts and Facebook updates.
So getting someone to stop and take notice has turned into a valuable, scarce commodity. In fact, some experts believe that attention is the new form of currency. It makes sense—you only have so much to go around so you want to be wise about where and how you spend it.
The theory behind all of this is called the economy of attention. “The argument is that there’s so much information and stimulation in the world that what has become scarce is the ability to attend to all of it,” explains Tom Davenport, who holds the president’s chair of information technology and management at Babson College in Wellesley, Mass., and is author of "The Attention Economy: Understanding the New Currency of Business."
“Increasingly, people have to get better at allocating their attention to the things that really matter to them and getting attention for themselves. Because if you don’t get any attention, you’re unlikely to get all of the other things that go with monetary success, including sex and love.”
So it begs the question: In a world where attention is so precious and limited, how can you stand out in a crowd? Can you use tactics to help get your boss to notice you at work or if you’re single, catch the eye of that cute guy you keep seeing in your building?
In short, yes. But it’s not just about getting any sort of attention. As Davenport notes, “what gets attention is not necessarily what holds attention over time.” Meaning, if you walk into a restaurant naked, there’s no doubt you’d get a ton of attention—just not the right kind (unless you’re into that).
Of course, when it comes to attention, it helps to be attractive. “Beauty has always attracted attention,” says Davenport. “Whatever people do to enhance their visual appeal gets more attention. Sex appeal is also attention-getting. But again, be careful that you don’t go over that line, attracting negative attention. It’s about the right clothing and dress for the occasion and setting.”
Dress for Success
Exuding confidence is a guaranteed way to stand out in a crowd. “Confidence is the best accessory,” says celebrity stylist Todd Hanshaw. You can gain confidence by wearing clothes you feel good in and that flatter your figure. “A signature style is something that everyone needs to have, but very few actually do,” he says. “It’s when you’re looking at someone and you say, ‘Wow, they look really cool.’ They’re dressing for their personal style and know what works on their body.”
You can do that by spending a little time putting together your outfit for work or for going out the night before and trying it on to make sure you feel good in it—and that it plays up your best features, whether that’s your curvy hips, long legs or slim arms.
“You don’t want to look in the mirror and say ‘good enough,’” says Hanshaw. “That means your confidence isn’t there and you’ll look like everyone in the crowd.”
How you dress conveys your personality. If you come to work in clothes that are too big, it can come across as sloppy—not exactly the kind of attention you want to garner from your boss.
The fast fix: Get your clothes tailored so they not only look neat, they also flatter your body. “It’s a little thing that can make a huge difference,” say Hanshaw. Even if you can't afford an expensive, designer wardrobe, getting your clothes tailored to the perfect fit can make an inexpensive, $9.99 top look like a million bucks.
Wearing clothes to work that are clean (no stains!), ironed and tailored to your body makes you look polished, professional and sharp—and that can get you noticed. According to a CareerBuilder.com survey, 41 percent of employers said that people who dress better or more professionally tend to be promoted more often than others in their company.
But if you already work in a polished, buttoned up environment, you don’t want to blend in with the other suits. Stand out by adding a pop of color to your work outfit. “Plenty of people wear black suits every day—it’s easy and there’s nothing wrong with it, but you can change what’s on underneath,” says Hanshaw. “Take a black, gray or khaki suit and add an emerald green, royal blue or Chinese red top, and it will really pop.” The same suit can take you from season to season, but what you wear with it can make it look fresh, notes Hanshaw.
If you’re going out on the town, you can look sexy without bearing boatloads of cleavage—in other words, less is more. “You can still exude a sexuality without being slutty,” says Hanshaw. “Try a form-fitting sheath dress to show off your curves.” You can also try a mid-thigh skirt (with or without tights) to show off your legs or an off-the-shoulder top or dress to bare sexy shoulders.
The Eyes Have It
Flattering eye makeup is another easy way to get noticed—research shows that our eyes give off our most powerful non-verbal cues.
Try eye shadows that make your peepers pop at work or on a date. Gilbert Soliza, Sephora Pro lead makeup artist in Manhattan recommends choosing colorful eye palettes that include blues, purples and greens, which tend to draw the most attention without being over-the-top. He likes the Kat Von D True Romance Eyeshadow Palettes ($35) and Urban Decay’s 15 Year Anniversary Eyeshadow Collection ($55), both of which offer a wide variety of bright bold shades and neutral tones.
To get your flirt on, try lashing out. In cartoons, female characters often flirt by batting their eyelashes (which actually evolved as a signal of attraction), but if you don’t have a prescription for Latisse, then fake it. “The right pair of fake eyelashes is a girl’s best friend,” says Hanshaw. “It brings out your eyes. It’s feminine and can be subtle. All they will notice is how beautiful your eyes look.”
Another eye-catching makeup look is winged eyeliner. “A swipe of bold, graphic liner is an easy yet effective way to glam up your look and is also a huge trend for fall,” says Soliz. Here’s how to do it: “When creating a winged liner, first you should assess your eye shape—generally, the bigger the eyes, the larger the shape or ‘wing’ of the liner it can flaunt. If eyes appear smaller, a thinner, shorter line is most appropriate. Simply line the upper lashline, extending out a ‘flared’ end for a dramatic look that will really open the eyes.” Layer a smooth, black liquid liner like the Sephora Long-Lasting Eye Liner in 01 Black ($10) over your pencil line for a more glamorous look.
As important as eyes are, don’t forget to sweep on blush and bronzer, suggests Soliz. A healthy, youthful glow is always a crowd-pleaser.
“Try a bronzer with a golden sheen to help warm of the skin and give you a sexy, gorgeous sun-kissed glow,” he says. “The sheen will add luminosity to the skin and also soften any imperfections. Then, apply a pink-peach blush onto the apples of the cheek for a naturally flushed look.” Soliz likes the all-in-one Charlotte Ronson 3 X A Charm Luminizer, Blush, Bronzer in Shoshana ($28).
Let Your Personality Shine Through
But holding someone’s interest isn’t just about your looks. There are also behaviors that can get you more attention (no, not a strip tease). “Research shows that personalized messages are much more attention-getting then sending out big group emails or Tweets," according to Davenport, so keep that in mind before sending mass emails or hitting “reply all” at work or socially.
Another great way to get noticed is to lavish attention on someone else. “Giving attention has always been an effective means of getting attention,” says Davenport. In other words, the more you give, the more you receive.
Last but not least, you can’t emphasize enough the power of a smile. “Standing out is all about personality,” says Hanshaw. “When you smile your personality comes out, your inner beauty shows through and your eyes light up. And everyone wants to be around someone who's having a good time.”
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