"Watch me!”: A Need We Never Lose

strengthsfinder Oct 09, 2017

In his book Soar With Your Strengths, Dr. Clifton shared a little passage that seemed so casual that at first I almost missed its significance. In chapter 8 on the topic of celebrating strengths, Dr. Clifton suggests ways to acknowledge people’s strengths. One way is to simply watch people. “As you watch, you take a mental photograph of what a person does. Like listening, watching is a form of recognition and appreciation. We see this in children begging ‘Watch me, watch me’ as they play soccer, dress dolls, stack blocks, play Little League, or dive off a diving board.”

The next sentence caused me to rethink how I relate to other people, “That longing doesn’t disappear with the years.”

It’s true! We haven’t lost our need to be watched. We haven’t lost our need to be recognized and appreciated. What is more natural than to want others to see us when we feel at our best? Isn’t that when children ask to be watched, when they are doing something they think is really cool and they are excited about? Children aren’t ashamed to tell you to watch them. 

As we become adults, however, we learn to hide the desire to be watched. We don’t want to appear needy or self-indulgent. We might even be guilty of quashing adults who seem to want attention for the things they do.

True, there’s something off-putting about someone who brags, or someone with a large appetite for attention. But, I’m talking about the normal majority of the population. For fear of being lumped in with the braggart or attention-hound, most of us suppress the appetite to be watched. We’ve learned to wait until someone notices, or if they don’t, oh well. Still, the need is there.

Instead of saying, “hey, watch what I can do (or have done)," we develop intricate strategies to be watched. The need to be noticed and to feel important doesn't go away. Instead, it comes out indirectly—the humble brag, or resentment when someone fails to notice or recognize us. When the need is starved, it manifests itself in counter-productive ways.

Many organizations today are “watch me” deserts. I’m convinced that many of the dysfunctional behaviors we see in organizations stem from an unmet need to be watched. Taking a moment to watch someone and appreciate them is a form of gratitude that can go a long way toward strengthening an organization.

The need to be watched is the social equivalent of oxygen. Author Mickey Connelly said, “People need to feel important like they need to breathe.” When we deliberately watch someone and appreciate them for who they are or what they have accomplished, they seem to open up before our eyes. This is the reaction from people that I notice when people experience the StrengthsFinder. I see people feeling like they are finally being watched and respected for who they are as individuals and for their personal values. StrengthsFinder is a tool that allows people to feel watched, appreciated, and understood.

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