Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Do I have your Attention?

Another fall-out of the immense number of people crowding every profession is Attention Seeking Behavior (ASB). You’ll see various versions of this ASB in your office itself. Look around, we all know that drama queen & the busy bee.

The urge is to set themselves apart, and at the same time have everyone applaud them.

Such behavior generally has roots in early childhood. Either the kid fails to develop a sense of self-worth & constantly seeks approval from others; at other times it may be an only child who never matures. Provided with undiluted attention from parents (authority) they seek the same everywhere. This is not to say that all single kids are mal-adjusted, I know some very selfless, caring people who are only kids.

There are different kinds of ASB. I can already identify a few types in the people I meet daily:

The sufferer: this person is the saddest & the most unfortunate person you know. Everything goes wrong for her; she might even pretend or exaggerate illness. Severe cases may meet the diagnostic criteria for Munchausen Syndrome (also known as Factitious Disorder). It's very difficult not to feel sorry for someone who relates a plausible tale of suffering in a sob story or "poor me" drama. At times these people also tend to be clingy – they will ping you the instant they see you online, & God forbid if you don’t reply back – they will take that to mean that you hate them!

The organizer: she may present herself as the one in charge; the one organizing everything, the one who is reliable and dependable, and the one people can always turn to. However, the objective is not to help people (this is only a means to an end) but to always be the centre of attention. Reminds me of Monica from Friends – remember that episode “But I’m always the hostess!”

The manipulator: she may exploit family relationships, manipulating others with guilt and distorting perceptions; although she may not harm people physically, she causes everyone to suffer emotional injury. Vulnerable family members are favorite targets. A common attention-seeking ploy is to claim she is being persecuted, victimized, excluded, isolated or ignored by another family member or group, perhaps insisting she is the target of a campaign of exclusion or harassment.

The drama queen: every incident or opportunity, no matter how insignificant, is exploited, exaggerated and if necessary distorted to become an event of dramatic proportions. Everything is elevated to crisis proportions. Histrionics may be present where the person feels she is not the centre of attention but should be. Inappropriate flirtatious behavior may also be present.

The busy bee: this individual is the busiest person in the world if her constant retelling of her life is to be believed. Every day events which are regarded as normal by normal people take on epic proportions as everyone is invited to simultaneously admire and commiserate with this oh-so-busy person who never has a moment to herself, never has time to sit down, etc. She's never too busy, though, to tell you how busy she is.

The feigner: The most effective method of feigning victimhood is to burst into tears, for most people's instinct is to feel sorry for them, to put their arm round them or offer them a tissue. From years of practice, attention-seekers often give an Oscar-winning performance in this respect. Feigning victimhood is a favorite tactic of bullies and harassers to evade accountability and sanction. When accused of bullying and harassment, the person immediately turns on the water works and claims they are the one being bullied or harassed - even though there's been no prior mention of being bullied or harassed. It's the fact that this claim appears only after and in response to having been called to account that is revealing. Mature adults do not burst into tears when held accountable for their actions. (Reminds me of the evil MILs in K - serials)

The false confessor: These people are full of anecdotes – some of which seem too good to be true. Their life seems to be one exciting event after another like a Hollywood movie, while yours is just a drab routine. They mostly get “inspired” by events that they read about or watch in movies. This may seem like an extreme case, but I do actually know someone like this (& no, I am not trying to get your attention by saying this)

You can read the entire list of types here.

Are these people harmful?

Physically, most of them are not.

Emotionally, yes. They can sap away a lot of time & energy, & tire you out with their histrionics. Some like the False Confessor will just bore you after a certain period of time.

We’ll talk about how to deal with such people in the next post

Do you know of such people? What types have you encountered?


  1. very insightful...did not know tht this condition actually had a term!!

  2. yeah I do have a really busy bee friend who can't stop bragging about how she is busy meeting some people or going for a drink or chatting with her friends :D

  3. I am thinking were I may fall in these.. :-)

  4. Wow, very useful post! I am always facinated by psychology, and I think this is a great blog. It's interesting to see these personality types classified so clearly. I feel like I've encountered each one of them in some environment, whether it's work social or family. A good follow up post would be one on coping tactics in having a functional working relationship these kind of disorered personalities:D Can't wait to read more from you,

  5. Very well written post!!!! Know a person that does this, now with the name of the term :)



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