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Getting Attached?

Posted on: Thursday, July 19, 2018 Category: Blog (58)
3 min read

Attachment theory is a psychological model that attempts to describe the dynamics of long- and short-term interpersonal relationships. Starting with John Bowlby’s seminal work in the 1950’s, attachment theory has been one of the most enduring and heavily researched schools of thought in psychology.

Our attachment style is a product of our childhood experiences. It is determined by how we think of ourselves and others. Classically, attachment is the emotional bond we develop with another person.  This bond which the trust and security we feel in that relationship.

We are described as having four attachment styles:

  1. Secure
  2. Anxious-Preoccupied
  3. Dismissive-Avoidant
  4. Fearful-Avoidant

As a leader or employee, coach or supporter, understanding others’ attachment styles is key to facilitating relationships with and achieving the best from people.

Adapted from lovesicklove.com

We all know that people react to stress at work and in life differently. How they react can come down to their attachment style. Recognising and working with their style can aid both people to face workplace and life issues. Keep in mind, attachment theory studies intimate, emotional relationships, so take this advice at a purely platonic level! Here’s what to look out for:



Definition: Possess a positive view of self and others. They tend to agree with statements like; “I am comfortable depending on others and having others depend on me” or “I don’t worry about being alone or others not accepting me”.

How to handle: People with secure attachment styles are the easiest to handle. They are open, engaged and willing to work through problems on themselves or with others. More often than not, you will come to them for help, rather than the other way round!


Definition: Have a negative view of self, positive view of others. They tend to agree with statements like; “I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but sometimes I worry others don’t value me as much as I value them” or “I want to be emotionally intimate with others, but I find that others are reluctant to get as close with me as I’d like”.

How to handle: These are the self-doubters that want to formulate relationships with others and struggle to overcome the negative feelings they have about themselves. They are,  sociable – at least they want to be. Improving their self-esteem through feedback and compliments, while getting to know them beyond work, will help facilitate trust with that person.


Definition: Have a positive view of self, negative view of others. They tend to agree with statements like; “I am comfortable without close emotional relationships” and “I prefer not to depend on others or have others depend on me”. The lone wolf, dismissive-avoidant people have a high desire for interdependence, so much so that they may attempt to avoid any attachment with others. Dismissive-avoidant people are often defensive and suppress or hide their true feelings. They also tend to deal with rejection by distancing themselves from the source of rejection.

How to handle: Handling someone with a dismissive-avoidant attachment style requires thoughtfulness and careful approach. Being emotionally activated toward them will not yield any positive results, as they do not reciprocate with others’ emotions. Instead, be cool, calm and collected in dealings and keep feelings out of discussions.


Definition: Have a negative view of self and others. They tend to agree with statements like; “I am uncomfortable getting close to others” and “I sometimes worry I will be hurt if I become close to other people”. People with a fearful-avoidant attachment style are a lone wolf that needs a pack. Their negative view of themselves and of others produces a similar effect as the dismissive-avoidant attachment style – with the avoidance of feelings and intimacy – however, their negative view of self will often result in heightened anxiety.

How to handle: Like when dealing with dismissive-avoidant people, try to keep feelings and emotions out of conversations. Instead, slowly work improving their self-esteem, which will then allow them to become more confident in social situations.

Remember, attachment theory is reactionary. You can play to their attachment style or against it, increasing or decreasing their levels of anxiety. If you’re dismissive of someone with a negative view of self, that will only increase their anxiety about themselves, and about people – especially if they’re fearful-avoidant. Conversely, if you are reassuring, you will set the foundations of trust which you can build a relationship from.

Want to know what your attachment style is? Click here!

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