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January 25th, 2017 by Jordan Yassine
By Jordan Yassine
We all know of at least one attention seeker in our lives. Attention seekers come in many different shapes and sizes. They can range from that chatty coworker in the office to your own children. While attention seekers may be entertaining at times, they can also be quite annoying. It can sometimes feel like you are in a love-hate relationship. However, there’s a little-known secret to attention seekers that you should know: The unique power that they give us over them.
To better understand attention seekers, we need to first grasp why we behave. According to a research article published in Behavior Analysis in Practice, human beings behave because of four reasons: To escape a situation, gain someone’s attention, access something tangible such as money, or self-stimulation. All of our behaviors can fit into one these four categories. In our case, we are talking about that special category of behaviors fueled by attention, such as talking a lot, complaining, and teasing.
Behavioral scientists routinely look at what comes before and after a behavior to better understand attention seekers. For example, after finding himself sitting alone at a party, Johnny decides to grab a microphone. He starts to crack a few jokes. After getting a couple of laughs, he keeps on going. In this case, Johnny’s jokes were sparked by no one talking to him. They were also fueled by the laughs he was getting. If people were paying attention to Johnny in first place, he probably would not have grabbed that microphone. Similarly, he would not have kept cracking jokes if no one was laughing.
The point is, the environment has a huge effect on the attention seekers in our lives. If there is no environment, attention-seeking will not happen. The beauty of this is that we can change the environment. And by changing the environment, we then change behavior.
Since attention fuels people like Johnny, we’re actually given a lot of power. Your attention is like a drug to an attention seeker. They will routinely need it, and will work hard to get it. Knowing this, you can use their cravings to your advantage. For example, reserving attention from your talkative child until they do their chores is a great way to put them to work. Giving that flirty coworker extra attention when they do something nice is a clever way to get an unpaid assistant. You can control how an attention seeker gets their ‘fix’. Make them work for it.