How to handle attention when you don’t feel comfortable

Some people love being in the spotlight and lap up attention. Others hate too much attention and feel uncomfortable in the spotlight.

How should I handle attention? Some people seem to welcome it. Others, like me, find it uncomfortable.

With attention, there are two recognisable types. The attention seekers who slurp up attention like kids lap up ice cream, and those who feel uncomfortable whenever under the spotlight. Most of us lie somewhere between. In some circumstances, we feel comfortable with attention and in others we do not.

We will be delighted if the good looker we’ve had our eye on comes over for a flirtatious chat, but uncomfortable if the person is someone for whom we feel no attraction whatsoever.

We may be delighted to be singled out with admiration for our new designer suit but mortified at good-hearted laughter generated by the new look our hairdresser has especially created.

Unfortunately, the attention we receive from others is not under our control. Unwelcome attention will always come our way from time to time.

When it does, how can we best handle it?

Those who know how to deal with attention are the attention seekers. No, of course, you don’t want to become one of them, and you don’t have to. But you can watch and learn from them, taking only what is useful for you.

Have you noticed how the attention seekers garner attention? They walk in with a lively gait, sparkling eyes, wide smile and with a personal greeting for everyone. It seems they almost expect to receive a compliment and they usually do.

You might say, they think they are “God’s gift,” and you would probably be right. They believe they have a lot to offer, even if it is no more that a smile to a passerby. They expect to flattered with attention because they bestow it on others. They are supremely self-confident.

What do they do when negative attention comes along?

They laugh. To the attention seekers, there is no such thing as negative attention. Any attention is positive and if others get to laugh at their expense, great. They love to make others happy.

What if the attention comes in the form of romantic overtures by someone they don’t fancy?

They are so flattered they smile with delight and then they deflect it. “Oh Tony, you know I’d never past the test with your mother.”

Attention seekers treat the romantic overture so lightly that the mover can avoid losing face by taking the hint. It might have been a serious move but if the attention seekers are not interested, they simply treat it as flattery.

This is the lesson the attention seekers can teach us.

We do not have to take attention seriously, whether that attention is positive or negative. Rather than feel offended or obligated by unwanted attention, we can choose how we respond. We can ignore it or we can treat it humorously and lightly.

If this seems like a tall order, then fake it until you make it. By practising being light and flippant, you develop another way of interacting with people.

As you increase your competence in communicating in a variety of ways, you will become more confident. Of course, you’ll get more attention, confident people do. But by then you’ll know just how to handle it.

Fleur’s Story

Fleur is single, career-minded and practical. She is not into flattery and can’t be bothered with meaningless chitchat. For some time, Fleur has been hoping to find a partner. Eventually, she would like to settle down and have children. Each evening, she says positive affirmations hoping to draw this special man into her life.

In her job, Fleur meets with a number of suppliers regularly. One of these, Bob, has been unusually attentive. By his comments and behaviour, she senses he is romantically interested in her.

Bob is a very pleasant chap and, at first, Fleur is flattered by his attention. But she knows she doesn’t return his feelings. He engenders as much romantic spark in her as a blown light bulb.

Now, instead of feeling flattered, Fleur feels the attention is a burden.

She is confused because she feels she should be grateful for Bob’s interest. Deep down she fears this may be her only chance and she should give it a go. After all, she has been praying for someone to come into her life. Will she ever find anyone else who finds her attractive? As well, she hates the thought of hurting Bob’s feelings because she knows how hurt she’d feel if her advances were rejected.

Fleur needs to stop empathising with Bob. She doesn’t know how Bob feels, she just assumes she does. Bob will find his own way of handling Fleur’s disinterest.

Her self-esteem and confidence need a boost. Settling for someone she knows isn’t suitable is selling herself cheaply. Fleur will find a partner if she values herself.

Fleur can take a lesson from supremely confident people. She can refuse to take Bob’s advances seriously while enjoying the positive attention. She can remain friendly but become more flippant when chatting to him.

Although this is not natural to Fleur, it is in her interest to develop her repertoire of techniques for communicating with people. The more she practices being light and chatty, the easier it will become. She can only benefit by having more choices in her interactions with others.

Handling Unwelcome Attention

  • Stay focussed on your feelings, what you want and what you don’t.
  • Treat your unwanted suitor as an adult. Don’t take responsibility for their feelings.
  • Decide how you’ll respond to the attention. Ignoring it or treating it lightly allows the suitor to avoid losing face if they take the hint.
  • Develop a variety of communication techniques. Be serious. Be chatty. Be humorous. Be annoyed. With perseverance, you will have the skills to cope with any situation.
  • Focus on building your self-esteem and self-confidence. Face your fears of being alone and overcome them.