Are Attention-Seeking Behaviors Driving You Nuts? According to the book How to Deal with
People You Can’t Stand, a crave to be seen, heard and recognized is the most powerful
motivational forces known. People who have a strong desire to be acknowledged (to be the
center of attention) tend to present themselves in a forceful relentless manner and engaging with them can be utterly exhausting. If you are anything like me, you’ve wondered why the extreme behavior. You’ve also asked if they truly understand how their actions are perceived by others - well, maybe! Maybe they do know what they are doing and can clearly see a shift in people’s demeanor and body language, maybe they are oblivious to their inappropriate behavior and you just have to bring it out of hiding, or maybe their crave for attention is so innate that they have no control. Studies have shown that people who desire high levels of attention feel under appreciated and therefore feel so compelled to do any and everything in their power to prove their worthiness, and intelligence. Considering the impact is not at the top of their list. Regardless, of what circumstance is applicable to your encounter the manner in which we respond is common. The average person on the receiving
end will either make a conscious effort to limit interactions or disengage entirely by hiding
their discontent with complete silence. Frankly, ignoring them makes them work harder, and giving into their shenanigans to get them to go away will work sometimes, butwhen you have no other choice than to engage gaining control of the encounter is a must.
Once this is the case, make use of these three strategies to help minimize your frustration.
1. Get Their Attention. One of the most annoying interactions in the workplace is with someone who craves attention. Adult temper-tantrums and relentless emotional outbursts drive many people to grit their teeth when they see an attention-seeker coming. And, contesting these emotional campaigns without getting caught up in your feelings is almost impossible. To manage the encounter, it is best if you focus on gaining control by skillfully setting the stage to put a halt to their outbursts. Though our first reaction is to ignore their behavior, we inadvertently give the approval to carry on. Therefore, ignoring is not an option, you must interrupt their disruption. Calmly interject by stating their name repeatedly (Lisa, Lisa, Lisa) in an assertive manner. Demand control by showing control in a respectful way. Do this by stepping into the uncomfortableness. For instance, consider the meaning behind their remarks or behavior, is this an attempt to show how smart they are, how well-rounded they are or maybe to remind people of their accomplishments and value they bring to the business or project. Once you have their attention, backtrack to clarify specifics, to gather the ammunition needed to reduce the intensity of the encounter.
2. Reduce the Intensity of Their Craving.
Reducing the uncomfortableness amid someone's outburst is easier said than done. Giving a little attention can change tides for you on the receiving end. To reduce the intensity, you must instill patience and a higher level of empathy. Remember, people continuously famished for attention often feel underappreciated, regardless if it’s true. Thanking them for their input, and expressing how sorry you are for the apparent misunderstanding can help them engage or receive your message with fewer objections. However, be sure to stick to the facts and highlight your intentions to make sure they understand your appreciation for their hard work and contribution. Explain that your goal as XYZ is to create a positive work environment for ABC. Further explain in a calm assertive manner how their behavior is disruptive and not in line with the departments objective to provide (XYZ), hence, will not be tolerated. Do not ask what instigated the rant itself, for this will only serve as an invitation to more rants.
3. Keep It Real, Expose Their Behavior for What It Is.
Being able to keep it real is a way to hold others accountable for their words and actions yet being direct is hard for many people. If you haven’t noticed, wishing someone’s outburst or snide remarks away never works. Even if they see or hear how ridiculous they sound and experience a hint of shame or guilt, they will make every effort to justify their actions. As a matter of fact, our silence actually gives them permission to continue bad behavior, take over conversations and divert everyone’s attention towards them. To gain control, redirect the conversation by exposing their behavior at the moment. Aggression is definitely not needed or recommended but an assertive approach is. Do not to attempt this when you are agitated or in an emotional frame of mind because their flair for turning on explosive outbursts or making embarrassing remarks to gain attention will outperform you every time. Nonetheless, ask if they’re purposely trying to disrupt, be disrespectful or embarrass. Ask, what does ABC have to do with XYZ if they’re attempting to divert conversations. On the other hand, if there is relevance to their outburst, it’s usually revealed in the first two statements, so focus on addressing that only. The rest are just fillers used to make their remarks sound good or mask the roots of their insecurities.
Everything considered, do not beat yourself up if you become frustrated with a colleague’s constant need for attention. To overcome your frustration, you have to be willing to be uncomfortable for a moment in order to regain a healthy level of control. Like many elements of business, navigating attention-seekers in the workplace successfully requires strategy. For more information on how to deal with difficult people in the workplace, management coaching and training workshops, email Kesi Howard at Kesi@structuredstrategies.global or log onto www.Kesihoward.com. Call today, 412-557-2966.
Brinkman, D. R., & Kirschner, D. R. (1994). Dealing with people you can't stand: how to bring out the best in people at their worst. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc.