i won a new car!! just kidding.
August 14, 2006 4:03 PM   Subscribe

How do you deal with someone who constantly seeks attention through exaggerations and impulsiveness?

A friend likes to seek attention through grandiose gestures. His typical behavior consists of saying something astounding yet plausible to gain attention, but once you start asking questions about it, he’ll say “just kidding.” Of course, if you don’t ask about it, he’ll keep bringing it up (over the next few minutes, days, whatever necessary) until finally you’re curious enough to ask, and then he says, “just kidding.” Other behavior includes exaggerating scenarios for sensationalistic purposes, speaking loudly about his personal life so surrounding people will hear, and making high-priced, impulsive purchases to stun others.

Multiple people have indicated to him that this behavior is childish, irritating, and needs to stop. In response, he stops temporarily, but is back doing the same thing within days. Is there anything that can be said or done to encourage him to end this behavior, once and for all?
posted by pricklypear to Human Relations (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
tell him you will stop hanging out with him for a number of days every time he does it. Then do so. A reverse time out kind of thing.
posted by gaspode at 4:04 PM on August 14, 2006

Why are you friends with him? Why are so many others? Obviously he has qualities that are attractive to you and the others, which are probably tied to the same impulsiveness and grandiosity as the annoying habits. So don't attack there. Obviously you have witnessed this enough to see it coming, so just respond with, "I know you're full of shit. Drop it." If he insists, keep it up. He'll grow tired of the routine where he's increasingly embarassing himself for attention, and on the off-chance that he's telling the truth, he gets a bit of boy-who-cried-wolf discipline, which might be the best case scenario, actually.

But don't throw the baby out with the bathwater. He's your friend - an impulsive, grandiose friend - and all he's doing is schtick so that he can keep on joking around with you. His schtick is manipulative by nature, but as an often-times annoying friend myself, I can tell you that it isn't malicious. It's a friendship test. He's proving that he knows enough about you to push your buttins in a good-natured way, and that you care enough about him to listen and believe him. If you call bullshit, you still pass the test, but he'll learn that the schtick doesn't play, and move on to something else.

Also, and I might be off-base, but do what you can to get him laid, if that makes sense in his situation. It might not change his M.O., but it should at least make him less attention-starved.
posted by Navelgazer at 4:26 PM on August 14, 2006

It may sound mean, but I mock them. I just take whatever fantastic thing they say and try to push it over the top. Like this:
Friend: "Oh my god! I just got an audience with the Pope!"
Me: "The Pope! That's AWESOME. I just know the minute he meets you he's going to want to be BEST FRIENDS FOREVER. It'll be so great. You can take the Pope Mobile through the drive-in at Burger King and sit around around arguing over which Pope Pius was the most piousest. X? VI? Who knows? It's just fun to talk about, ya know? You're so lucky. I'm going to go tell everybody that I know the Pope's best friend!"

If you do it good naturedly, you can then redirect the conversation and take the focus off the drama queen without making anyone too terribly mad.
posted by jrossi4r at 4:28 PM on August 14, 2006 [1 favorite]

"Hey Bill, you're doing it again. You know that shits me, right?"
posted by pompomtom at 4:28 PM on August 14, 2006

You can't change other people. You can tell them that you don't like the behaviour. You can threaten consequences (retaliation, end of friendship) but there is no (legal) way to change people. People have told him the behaviour is inappropriate and he continues to do it - that's the kind of guy he is.

If he bugs you, avoid him/ignore him.
posted by b33j at 4:30 PM on August 14, 2006

Maybe point out to him the positive results of behaving more as you would like.

Just telling him to "stop it" doesn't really give him a good reason to do so. Threatening to no longer hang out with him may seem like not that attractive a choice; he may feel that if he does stop, he'll just be boring like everybody else, you won't find him interesting, and even if you continue to hang out with him it won't be as fun. Just help him imagine another life, in which he doesn't act like a jerk but still has a lovely time.

Good luck. You may need some imagination.
posted by amtho at 4:57 PM on August 14, 2006

How do you deal with someone who constantly seeks attention through exaggerations and impulsiveness?

Oh, I see you've met my sister. ;)

I usually make her self concious of it immediately, as soon as she does it. "Oh, I see you're back to talking about you again". etc. It worked slowly over time. She does it less when I'm around (tho i'm pretty sure she does it as usual with everyone else). ;)
posted by jak68 at 7:01 PM on August 14, 2006

OK, great suggestions about how to give him the stick, but I'd suggest giving him a bit of carrot too. Communicate to him somehow, whether directly or indirectly, that his self-aggrandizing behaviour is unnecessary because you accept him as he is regardless. Perhaps when he realizes that he doesn't need to win your attention because as friends he already has it, then perhaps he'll stop trying too hard.
posted by randomstriker at 10:31 PM on August 14, 2006

Two words: Personality disorder.
posted by IndigoRain at 11:00 AM on August 15, 2006

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