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Wasting Energy Trying To Control Negative Attention

How many power struggles in your life are caused by trying to control negative attention? It starts with children; we all know that if kids don’t get positive attention, they are quite good at getting our negative attention instead.

Most negative behavior is a symptom of an unmet positive need. Here’s the logic; if people don’t get their needs met positively, they will attempt to get those very same needs met negatively, with or without awareness. To learn more about this, read my series covering the six most common patterns of negative behavior and the unmet positive need.

This same logic predicts that if we see negative attention behavior, the most effective way to reduce or eliminate that behavior is to offer the corresponding positive need. Attempting to control, deter, or punish negative attention behavior only ads fuel to the fire. This is how humans function.

Depriving someone of positive attention as a way to stop negative attention is as silly as depriving your car of gas because you don’t want to reward the “empty” light for coming on.

Accepting this reality may greatly disrupt your leadership or parenting philosophy and assumptions about how to influence behavior.

Recently, I heard a parent discussing the positive impact he experienced by applying this principle with his children. He shared,

“You can’t unlock a lock with a lock. You have to unlock a lock with a key.”

This disruptive behavioral technology saved one of our clients $50,000 in one year by dramatically shortening their leadership meetings. In one year it saved a hospital $250,000 in turnover reduction among nurses. It has virtually eliminated behavioral problems at Muse School in California, and dramatically reduced power struggles with my children. It’s a game-changer. 

Things to Ponder

  • How much energy do I spend in my life trying to control negative attention?
  • What can I do to discover the positive attention needs of people in my life?
  • What steps can I take to replace my own negative attention behaviors with positive ones?
Wasting Energy Trying To Control Negative Attention

Nathan Regier

Nate Regier, PhD is CEO and Co-founding owner of Next Element, a global leadership communication firm specializing in building cultures of Compassionate Accountability®. A former practicing clinical psychologist, Dr. Regier splits his time between writing, speaking, training, consulting, and developing Next Element's global network of certified trainers. He is co-developer of the Leading Out of Drama® training and coaching system for positive conflict, and has authored two books on drama and conflict; Beyond Drama: Transcending Energy Vampires, and Conflict Without Casualties: A Field Guide For Leading With Compassionate Accountability. Nate is a certifying master trainer in the Process Communication Model®. He lives in Newton, KS, is married and has three daughters. Learn more about Conflict Without Casualties here.

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APA Reference
Regier, N. (2019). Wasting Energy Trying To Control Negative Attention. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 23, 2020, from


Last updated: 10 Apr 2019
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