Dealing with Negative Attitudes

Dealing with negative attitudes can be a bit of a sticky wicket. (To be transparent I don’t know much about wickets. They apparently have something to do with an incredibly popular game that I, as an American, know nothing about) 

One of the things that makes dealing with negative attitudes so challenging is that we can see them in other people…in ourselves, not so much. Step one in dealing with negative attitudes is making sure your attitude is not the source of someone else’s poor attitude. 

Oftentimes that’s easier said than done. I am no different than anyone else in that respect. I’ve found that a hard look in the mirror coupled with a healthy dose of honesty is the best antidote for a negative attitude. “Things” are hardly ever as bad as they seem at first glance. A second, and sometimes third glance can go a long way toward snapping me back to reality. 

Only after we are certain we have positive control over our attitude can work on helping others gain a positive control over their own.

Dealing with other people’s poor attitudes is an even bigger challenge than dealing with our own. It’s important to approach the person with patience, empathy, and care. Here are some ideas that may make it less of a challenge.

  • Stay calm. Don’t let the other person’s poor attitude affect your own behavior. Take a deep breath and try to remain calm and composed. Remember, attitudes are contagious. Make sure yours isn’t infected with negativity while you’re trying to inject positivity into someone else. 
  • Listen, listen some more and then a little more. It’s essential to listen to what the other person is saying and try to understand where they are coming from. Ask open-ended questions to encourage them to share what the heck is going on that’s causing them to lose control of their attitude.
  • Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and see things from their perspective. This can help you understand how they got to where they are. Never dismiss their feelings or perspective. Their perspective is likely different from yours because it comes from their life experiences. If you had the identical life experiences you’d likely have the exact same perspective too.
  • Speak in a calm and assertive tone, using “I” statements to express your own feelings and concerns. Never ever “blame” the other person for their feelings. Don’t tell them they are wrong to feel the way they feel. Negative attitudes are born from emotions. Trying to use logic, at least what you think is logic, to overcome emotions is a losing proposition.
  • Set boundaries and limitations. If the other person’s poor attitude is causing you undue stress or anxiety, it’s okay to set boundaries. Be clear about what you will and won’t tolerate in terms of behavior. The flight attendants on a plane tell you to “put your own oxygen mask on first” because if you pass out from lack of oxygen you won’t be able to help anyone. It’s the same with attitudes. If someone is sucking the positive oxygen out of your life then you need to put your positive mask on and separate yourself from that person. You can try again another time but you need to refill your positivity tank before making another attempt.
  • Know your own capabilities. It’s likely you’re not Superman or Superwoman. Sometimes another person may need more help than you are able to provide. If you think another person’s negative attitude goes beyond a bad day at work or a dispute at home then you may need to encourage them to seek outside help. This is particularly true if the other person’s negative attitude is prolonged and persistent. It could be a lot more serious than they are letting on.

Remember, dealing with other people’s poor attitudes can be difficult. It’s important to approach the situation with care and respect. By remaining calm, listening actively, and communicating assertively, you can help someone else “catch” your positive attitude and turn their crummy day into something terrific.

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