As I write this latest in the series of blogs on our basic psychological needs, Valentines Day is nearly upon us. Naturally attitudes vary about this day with it’s increasing commercial attention. The purpose of the day has become increasingly blurred, with people giving cards and presents to loved ones at various levels. There are even websites promoting Valentines for pets!
At it’s simplest though, perhaps it is an opportunity to focus on the basic need for intimacy that we discussed in the previous blog of this series. Remember that intimacy is something that can be shared at different levels with different people. It’s not necessarily about love and romance.
Closely linked to intimacy is another basic human need – the need to regularly give and receive attention.
I think this one can be a bit of a challenge for some of us. Isn’t ‘attention-seeking’ wrong? We all have experience of that child that constantly interrupts our conversations. Some of you may have experienced the man in the board meeting who always seems to have to tell everybody how amazing his sales scores are.
It is a typically British trait to avoid too much fuss from others. We tend not to celebrate ourselves. We’re afraid of looking big-headed.
On the other hand we’re not necessarily that good at celebrating others either. As a result it is common for people to feel undervalued or unimportant.
Fulfilling your need to give or receive attention
Fulfilling your need for attention doesn’t have to be about recognising how amazing you are (even though you are). You don’t need to shout it from the hilltops. The best way to fulfil your need for attention, both giving and receiving, is through a balanced social life. All you have to do is a make a little time, and take the initiative. Make sure to meet up with a friend or friends several times a week. Don’t wait to be asked. Be your own social secretary.
It’s easy to assume that other people, even our friends sometimes, are too busy to spend time with us. Again you have that nagging feeling that you’re not important enough. In practice, you will often find the opposite is true. Your friend may feel more valued because you invited them.
This is one of those needs where you get more, the more you give. Think about some of the people in your life, whether they are friends or just people you might like to get to know a little better. How could you fulfill their need for attention? Could you comment on the way they dress? Why not show appreciation for the work they do? You could even simply ask them how they are?
Try something new. Don’t be knocked back if they are not interested. Try again, or move on to someone else who is more receptive.
When you do get to meet someone socially, pay attention to how much you are talking about yourself. In fulfilling our instinctive need for attention we can often find ourselves talking about ourselves too much. Try aiming to talk twice as much about the person you are talking to as you do about yourself. Doing so creates a feedback loop of attention. It makes the person you are talking to feel more significant, and they will think more highly of you for that. Don’t be overly surprised if they don’t return the favour though. This social skill is a bit of a challenge for many.
Don’t forget to listen too. Resist the urge to wait for a gap so that you can fill it with your own experiences.
But I’m just too shy!
Shyness can get in the way of social success. If this is a problem for you, it is definitely something to work on. You can get help with this through coaching, neurolinguistic programming or hypnotherapy for example. Resist the temptation to think there is something seriously wrong with you because you’re shy. It’s very common to feel that way.
Often your shyness will have developed from negative beliefs about yourself that don’t support you. You may have had, or seen, some bad experiences in social situations in the past. You may simply need more practice in interacting with others, since you have probably been avoiding doing so.
Above all, keep practising, and put yourself ‘out there’.
The priority in fulfilling this need, as I said above, is to see other people, through whatever feels natural. You could attend a club (like Vining’s Holistic Book Club‘), or take a course in something you are interested in. Make sure there is value for you in the activity itself. That way you will have something to talk about with others who attend, and you’re more likely to keep going.
Aside from socialising though, you may often improve your fulfilment of this need through other therapies and treatments.
So how are you fulfilling your need to give and receive attention? If you scored youself out of 10, what would you give yourself? What would be a 10 for you? What’s the next step?