We’ve all seen people who crave the spotlight. They are usually successful at getting it, too. In social situations, meetings, and in one-on-one conversations, they often find an excuse to talk about themselves, offer provocative opinions, give other people lots of personal attention, and essentially go out of their way to make themselves the centre of attention.
Depending on the situation, the people around these colourful characters might be equally glad to have them nearby. After all, somebody has to break the silence, lead the conversation, and give other people something to talk about. Those with relatively shy personalities may find themselves in awe of this talent for social performance, while at the same time feeling relief that their more extroverted peers are keeping the spotlight on themselves.
But as with so many other attractive traits, there is a danger of these instincts being misapplied. Even if the attention-seeker is actually as charming as they think they are – and this is not always the case! – they tend to be more focused on the superficial elements of social success than on actually justifying their good standing by taking the time to do solid work. In other words, those with colourful personalities find it easier and more preferable to earn approval through performance in social interaction than through performance of their duties.
Other shortcomings may characterise attention-seeking employees as well, turning their hunger for social success into a true ‘dark side’ personality trait if not managed carefully. A failure to listen effectively to the ideas and concerns of other people is a common symptom of a colourful personality type gone too far. A tendency to over-commit to new ideas may also be in evidence, along with an inability to notice when their exhibitionism goes too far.
How colourful types can maintain the right focus
For many with this personality trait, the solution is to seek out a personal and professional niche where it can be used as an asset. Salespeople, for example, often find great success by implementing their charismatic skill set in the service of their company’s professional aims. Recall that those with colourful personality types may over-promise in order to be liked, only to under-deliver because they lack the focus needed to follow up on those promises by completing the work they entail. By remaining in positions where they can make guarantees that other people are tasked with fulfilling, colourful people are able to sidestep many of the weaknesses that their personalities bring in.
Still, switching jobs is not an ideal solution; it reduces employment prospects and can shift too much responsibility onto other people. It also deprives colleagues in other fields of the real benefits that a colourful personality can bring if it is channelled appropriately. By partnering with someone with a complementary personality, for instance – e.g., someone who is detail-oriented, and inclined to under-promise and over-deliver – the dangerous habits of a colourful personality can be kept in check.
If you have a colourful personality, make a special effort to improve your listening skills by holding eye contact, resisting the instinct to interrupt others, and helpfully rephrasing other people’s ideas as soon as you hear them, to ensure that you have understood them correctly. We also recommend putting yourself at more of a distance in your social interactions, so that you can manage your tone of voice and facial expressions with deliberation and sensitivity, rather than in the heat of the moment.
With these safeguards in place, your capacity to entertain will remain as impressive as ever. You will, however, find yourself behaving in a more approachable and appropriate manner in all types of social situations. You’ll also be a more effective team member at the office, completing your assignments on time and impressing your clients and colleagues at a much deeper level.