Mary Beth Fox and Richard

Why People are Annoying or Seek Attention

Do you know somebody who is always trying to get attention, interrupts people, seems to be a troublemaker and might be annoying? I’m sure you do. I think we have all experienced somebody like that at some point in our lives.

It’s easy to fire back on a person like that with a nasty comment or to make it known to them and others that they are annoying you. That’s what I used to do as well until I began realizing what might actually be going on for these people.

Looking at the Annoying Behaviors of Others

Just a few weeks ago, I was at water aerobics. I am typically the youngest person there by far and I truly enjoy that as I’ve always been drawn to people older than me. There is a man who comes to class and he is about to celebrate his eighty-ninth birthday.

The other ladies who are in the class get very annoyed with this man. He is often interrupting people, making jokes that others don’t find funny, and annoying others. He has never really bothered me and for some reason I always felt sad for him.

istockphoto 521545998 170667a

During class one day, another lady in the class abruptly confronted him about his behavior in front of everyone. My heart just broke as I saw how hurtful that was for him. When it happened, he looked at me. I saw a little boy in his eyes wanting me to rescue and protect him.

As the class went on, one of the ladies mentioned that she had heard that I am a therapist and had some questions for me. That happens often for me and I’m sure for other therapists as well. Most of the time, I deflect as I am protective of my time outside of work.

For some reason, I was open to her questions that day. I’m so glad that I was because the class turned into an open discussion about how difficult experiences in childhood affects us as adults. At some point, we even stopped exercising because everybody in the class was participating in the conversation.

Being Present to Hear Others’ Stories

There were a few side conversations, but everyone was discussing their childhoods. The man I mentioned made his way over to me. Nobody was paying attention to our conversation because they were all annoyed with him.

I have never heard him talk about anything serious in all of the time I’ve been around him. However, that day was much different.

He began by telling me that his father never came to watch him play sports when he was a little boy. When he was playing, he was always looking for his father but knew he wasn’t going to be there. As we were talking, he told me that he realized his father’s absence at important events had a tremendous impact on him.

My heart was breaking for him. At almost ninety years old, the pain of an absent father was still hurting him. He saw that I was listening to him and offering compassion. That’s something he probably doesn’t get much because of the way he acts when around others that I mentioned earlier.

Allowing Other’s to Share Their Pain

With him trusting me now, he then started telling me that his mother wanted to have an abortion with him because she didn’t want him. Due to that, she didn’t raise him, and he never got to know his mother. Another family member raised him. My heart was breaking even more for him.

Next, he began telling me that as a little boy he always wondered why he didn’t have aunts, uncles, and cousins.  He is Jewish and as an adult he went to visit the Auschwitz Concentration Camp in Poland.

The reason he went there was that he was looking for the names of his family members who were murdered there. As he was telling me this story, I had tears welling up in my eyes. The pain he had in his face was something I will never forget.

He told me that as he saw more and more names of his family members listed, that he just hit the ground crying. That was when he knew the answer to the question of why he didn’t have aunts and uncles. They were murdered at Auschwitz.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp
Why People are Annoying or Seek Attention 5

Covering Up Emotional Pain

As I said, the others in my water aerobics class just get annoyed with him and understandably so. This sweet man has lived his entire life covering up deep emotional pain. He never got the love and attention he needed from his parents. If you want to learn more about that because you relate or know others like him, please read my post Emotionally Needy? (Emotional Needs of Children Aren’t Met).

I doubt that he has shared so much with many people throughout his almost ninety years. I think he felt safe to open up and talk to me about his pain. His behaviors have probably kept him from getting close to others. That’s a defense mechanism that he probably learned as a very young, little boy.

It’s probably two-fold as to why he does that. The first is that as little bitty baby, he was rejected by his mother. The pain that causes is deeper than most will ever be able to imagine. Not only that, but that pain tends to be everlasting.

Subconsciously, he has probably become annoying and a troublemaker to prevent people from getting close to him. If nobody gets close to him, they can’t hurt him, reject him, or leave him.

Yearning for Acceptance and Unconditional Love

The second part of this is that his behaviors of annoying others probably started at a very young age as well. His needs of being seen, accepted, and loved unconditionally were huge. My guess is that those needs were never met. So, he tried to do anything and everything he could to get attention.

That is how he has arrived at being treated like some of the ladies in the group treat him. I’m not shaming them in any way. I used to be the same way and at times, that can still sneak up for me and I’ll only see the annoying behaviors of a person.

They don’t know his pain and the reasons that he acts the way he does. They just see a man who constantly interrupts, ignores personal space, is seeking attention, and irritates them. They respond accordingly.

Being a Safe Place for Others

Yesterday was the first time that I had seen him since he shared about his pain with me. He was being just like he always is and annoying the other ladies. One lady responded to his behaviors in a way that hit me right in my heart. I understand that he was getting on her nerves and being inappropriate. I’m not ignoring that in any way.

However, when she did that his eyes went immediately to me, and he tried to make his way over to me. He needed the emotional safety and unconditional love that he didn’t get when he was a child. When he looked at me, I saw a sad little boy who was being shamed and rejected. The look in his eyes said, “Save me. Love me. Hug me.”

As I got out of the pool after class, he said something to me. I couldn’t hear what he said other than him calling me by my name. I didn’t even know that he knew my name. It was like he was trying to connect with my soul because he knew that I saw him and that I am safe for him.

Mary Beth Fox and Richard
Me and my friend from water aerobics
Learning About the Pain of Others

Now, his behaviors will probably never change. Nor, will how others treat him because they won’t know his pain or the reasons for his behaviors. I can’t rescue him from that pain, but I sure can be kind, loving, and accepting.

I’m sure that he will continue to do things that annoy others in class, but I will be able to overlook those because I will remember the look he gave me when I saw that sad, little boy wanting love and attention. This post is not to say that we should ignore somebody’s behaviors.

You have every right to set boundaries. What I’m saying is that if we can show others a little more compassion, they might allow us to connect with them. So, when somebody has behaviors like I have explained about this sweet man who has lived in tremendous pain, getting to know them could be a gift he or she has been begging to receive for many years.

I have always said that if we were able to see the pain of others, hatred would not exist. Allowing yourself to be open to what might be beneath somebody’s behaviors could even result in a new friendship.

If you relate to this man or have somebody like him in your life, please comment below and share your experiences with the safe and loving Not Good Enough Stuff Community. I want to hear from others and your experiences could also help others in their healing journeys.


This site is only intended for people who are truly willing to look at themselves with an open mind and have the ability to truly be vulnerable with themselves and others. Please understand that this site is in NO WAY THERAPEUTIC ADVICE. However, this site can be very beneficial in learning the causes of your Not Good Enough Stuff. This site is not intended to provide or replace medical or psychiatric treatment. Mary Beth HIGHLY RECOMMENDS finding a licensed therapist to help you process the information from this site and all that you learn about yourself. Visit Psychology Today to find a licensed therapist in your area.

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Beautiful touching well-written.


I was never ever Validated by my mother and my father wasn’t there either so I never got the opportunity to be me my method of surviving was isolation so people like this guy would really trigger the selfishness of my mother and not listening to me and being all about her I could be compassionate to this man when I’m in a good place and a safe place with my inner kids and teenagers when I’m not in such a safe place and I’m in a lot of pain yeah I have a lot of anger for people like that they just seem to be perpetuating meanness and selfishness and false needs I hope this guy wakes up and let’s go to the pain thanks for sharing your story.