As I sat here thinking about writing, I had my foot gently chewed by one kitten while the other kneaded my sweater from behind. So I stopped, put my paper down, and gave them both a bit of fuss. Now they’ve gone off to play together.
One of their first learnings was how to successfully get my attention, preferably without any cursing of them involved! We are the same – sometimes we just want a bit of attention, and we all learn tricks to get it.
We start as babies: crying, cooing, smiling – they all work to some extent. Then we progress to tantrums, being clever, being extra well behaved or being naughty, and we gradually develop our own particular ways of getting that bit of attention.
You don’t think you do it any more? Think again! If you ever feel that a conversation with a friend is a bit one-sided – you listen to them, but they don’t ask about you – you want some attention. If you ever resent the fact that nobody noticed that you cleaned the house, you want some attention. If you ever feel that nobody cares, you want some attention.
We all want others to show that they care about us, to value what we do and are, to show that we matter to them, to give us some love, or at least notice us. And we’re all a bit lax about demonstrating to others that we do care for them and love them, that they matter to us and that we appreciate them.
The question isn’t whether you try to get attention; it’s whether you have useful tactics to gain the sort of attention you want.
Complaining, pouting, flouncing away, sulking, doing something with a lot of fuss and bother – these are some of the less useful tactics we adopt. They may attract attention, but it is not likely to be the sort we really want.
So what can we do to gain that attention we would like?
Well, I think the most obvious way is one people rarely use: to ask directly. ‘It would really help if you could just sit and listen to me for a little while’. Or, ‘I would like to feel that you appreciate what I do’. Most people will respond positively and sympathetically to the request: they’re not intentionally withholding attention from you, they’re just not aware that you want it.
We can also remember what makes us give attention to others and behave similarly. We tend to pay attention to someone who makes interesting conversation, if they are good company, when they’re friendly and pleasant, when they’re funny or quirky, when they’re endearing.
Finally we can do something that sounds counter-intuitive: when we want attention, we can give it instead. Ask the other person abut what’s going on in their world, appreciate what they have been doing, tell them how much they mean to you. When we give attention, we often receive it in return.
And don’t forget that the need for attention can sometimes remind us that we don’t appreciate ourselves enough. Be proud of your achievements, your positive moves, your effort, your good work. Count them all, big and small, and pat yourself on the back. Give yourself the attention you deserve – you’re worth it!