Attention—Like That’s A BAD Thing?

I’ll start off by saying that as an only child of two only children, perhaps I’m not the least biased writer on the topic of attention. I like attention. Love it.

When I choose, as I choose, and blah blah blah.

Hell, half of my dominance is the idea that catching attention and desire from people I admire is hot as fuck.

That’s my disclaimer.

However, over the years, as I’ve studied human nature and specifically how we interact in love, sex, and romance, I’ve learned a bit about attention aside from, “GIMME!”

For example, Dr. John Gottman of The Gottman Institute credits attention as the primary deciding factor in whether newlywed couples will stay together (and be happy) six years later.

The basic currency here were “bids” for attention, and attention.

He found that those who stayed together and thrived in their relationships responded to bids with attention 86% of the time, while those who failed in their relationships averaged only 33% attention response. (source)

He suggests that giving attention to your partner says:

  • I’m interested in you.
  • I hear you.
  • I understand you (or would like to).
  • I’m on your side.
  • I’d like to help you (whether I can or not).
  • I’d like to be with you (whether I can or not).
  • I accept you (even if I don’t accept all your behavior).

Which, reading those over, are pretty damn good things, in my book.

Which brings me to the reason I’m writing about attention.

Last December, I wrote a post, On Gender Inclusive Language: A Request For Your Emotional Labor, because I had a question and was crowdsourcing ideas.

On that writing, a comment was made:

“The gender deconstruction agenda is also about maximizing that drama. It’s a massive attention whore play.”

It was aimed at another commenter, and I didn’t respond, but I did make a note of it to come back to.

Because it struck me.

So what?

What’s wrong with wanting attention?

What’s so bad about wanting others to be interested? To hear us? To understand us, or want to? To be on our side? To want to help (even if they can’t)? To accept us (even if they don’t accept all of our behaviors)?

I don’t see a damn thing wrong with it.

Period.

And what’s wrong with wanting attention for a cause we believe in?

Again, I can’t see a damn thing wrong.

Can we ask for or bid for that attention in negative or injurious ways?

Oh, sure.

But, to me, THAT is where fingers should be pointed, not at the desire for attention. After all, that is SO MUCH a part of human nature that (remember) that one factor allows Dr. John Gottman to be able to predict the success of a relationship with 97% accuracy.

Not whether they both like beer. Or enjoy golfing. Or have the same ideas about finances.

Attention.

Simply paying attention.

And yes, attention itself can be harmful. Giving attention when someone is behaving in a reprehensible way could reinforce that behavior.

I talk about that a lot in my behavior modification class. How NOT to strengthen unwanted behaviors inadvertently.

But that’s easy.

Rather than give them the attention of being accused of attention mongering, simply ignore them. Move on about your day.

Otherwise, you have a choice:

  1. Place your own bid for attention: Rebuke them, yell, get rude, call them out, whatever.
  2. Give them your sincere attention, and maybe, just maybe, improve their world a little bit today, even if you don’t understand them, even if you can’t actually help.

I’ve spent the past few years focusing more on the second option and much less on the first, and I’ve found my quality of connections improving. More, I’ve found amazing people with a variety of belief systems coming into my life, and learning from them in ways I never would have considered.

Giving someone my attention costs me nothing, and often pays back in HUGE dividends.

I find I’d rather err on the side of attention and care than insults and dismissal.

Change My Mind!

Seriously. I want opposing viewpoints (and agreeing ones that I may not have covered, or with additional details).

What are your thoughts on attention?

I’ve mentioned an example of attention being harmful. What are you thoughts on that. When is giving someone attention a bad thing? And does that idea of badness outweigh the good that paying attention within our relationships and even to absolute strangers is overall the most positive strategy?

I’m looking forward to your thoughts.

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