Is Any Attention Better Than None?

For many of us it's important to be noticed, recognised and appreciated, but for some people, attention is their life-blood. It's what motivates all their actions.

And if they don't get positive attention, like smiles, words of praise and compliments, they'll settle instead for negative attention, in the form of criticism, sarcasm and disdain. They regard anything as better than being ignored!

I recall a client who commented that their parents were so disinterested in them that they didn't notice even when they behaved badly. They tried everyday to get some attention, even resorting to disruptive behaviour, but their parents remained indifferent or oblivious to all their efforts.

Then, there are those who receive a great deal of care and attention when they're unwell, who then have to struggle with the realisation that once they've recovered the full-on nursing and administering to their needs will fade away. For some, there can be a reluctance to revert back to the independent autonomy that comes with being well.

Attention, of any kind, is an acknowledgment of our presence. It's confirmation that we exist and are not invisible. Someone has noticed us. But we have to ensure that it's the right kind of attention.

Why does it matter so much? Why is any attention better than none?

We all see life through our own eyes, coloured by our past experiences and our ongoing daily perceptions of what's happening to us. Being in a situation which has historically resulted in us experiencing upset or unpleasantness may cause us to become more guarded and self-protective than if we'd not had those experiences. Other people's treatment of us and how we respond can colour our view of people and how we define our role in their lives.

It's important to keep this in mind if we're inclined to feel vulnerable when others are overseeing or critiquing our actions. It helps to remember that feedback, especially negative feedback, may not be about us. Though, it's not always easy to detach from that initial impression.

Other people may be stressed about what's happening in their lives, or they may be irritated by our apparent success, suspect that we've perhaps in some way side-lined them to get to where we are today. There may even be reasons we do not know or understand.

So, do we endeavour to use their apparent displeasure as a spur to do better, improve, try harder, with the ultimate goal of winning them over and receiving positive recognition? Or do we allow their negativity to reinforce our sense of not being good enough? Does their attention give us grounds to accept that they care enough to comment?

Finding a voice that's strong enough to ask for a more respectful response, that demonstrates our confidence, challenges their perceptions, focuses attention on our good points and highlights our achievements may ultimately succeed in changing the dynamics of the relationship. If not, is it time to question whether this relationship should continue to hold such a powerful influence over us?

Of course, approval does matter. It's an external yardstick to measure ourselves by, helping us to gauge our successes, compare our actions and results. It's hard to operate in a vacuum and that element of comparison and even competition can help spur us on, motivating us to improve and achieve more.

And, if someone's paying the bill, engaging our services, they're entitled to a certain quality of performance and level of satisfaction. Their attention is focussed on getting good results and receiving what they're paying for.

Equally, does doing well mean as much if no one comments or congratulates us? Is it enough to be pleased with ourselves, proud of what we've achieved, the hard work we've invested? But often an extra level of satisfaction comes from other people, when they cheer and recognise what we've done, appreciate the effort we've invested.

Even if we suspect that their praise and congratulations are not 100% sincere there's a good feeling that can come from simply knowing that others have noticed us.

Those who criticise us may have their own agenda. Whilst not allowing them to deflate our enthusiasm or demotivate us, remembering this can help us to step back and accept that we need to work towards goals and self-improvement that benefit our own quality of life.

If other people's negativity continues maybe it's time to look into finding another 'tribe', to connect with people who value you, who understand where you're coming from and encourage you to excel. Sometimes we need to take control and manage our own orbit.

Even businesses have found that a small amount of attention works wonders on staff performance. Something as simple as awarding an employee of the week or month, where the recognised member of staff has their picture posted in a visible place, like reception, can have an impact and significantly improve job satisfaction levels.

When staff feel valued, appreciated, pleased that their efforts have been noticed they're more likely to volunteer, come up with good ideas and be extra committed and loyal to the company. The right kind of attention enhances all our lives


Susan Leigh, South Manchester counsellor, hypnotherapist, relationship counsellor, writer & media contributor offers help with relationship & divorce issues, stress management, assertiveness and confidence. She works with individual clients, couples and provides corporate workshops and support.

She's author of 3 books, 'Dealing with Stress, Managing its Impact', '101 Days of Inspiration #tipoftheday' and 'Dealing with Death, Coping with the Pain', all on Amazon & with easy to read sections, tips and ideas to help you feel more positive about your life.

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