It’s An Attitude: make it an asset, not a disability

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“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” Scott Hamilton

It’s easier to recognize a bad attitude in others than to convince a person they have one or to see it in ourselves. It’s like selective hearing. We ignore what we don’t want to deal with.

I figured this out several years ago during recurring arguments with a family member. We ended up at an impasse again and again that neither of us could figure out until one night I said, “It’s your attitude. It’s bad.”

Our behaviors were similar.

I listed things they did wrong. I focused on them when I should have focused on myself. I defended myself when the right thing would have been to apologize. However, at the end of the day, I was open to having a conversation, wanted solutions, and tried one more time.

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They sat scowling and with arms folded until the day they figured it out, “I didn’t realize until now how resentful I’ve been. I guess I should have spoken up instead of letting it build up.”

One of several problems with a bad attitude is it’s a hard thing to prove when the other person refuses to look at their part. Unfortunately, pointing out the obvious, explaining, lecturing, giving examples, playing courtroom, and fighting don’t help until the person with the bad attitude wants to change.

I was at dinner with a friend who frequently talked about how much trouble she has holding onto friendships. After a second glass of wine one evening, she told me about a couple of ruined business deals. The third glass of wine is when she shared she’d attended a retreat that focused on self-improvement and she recognized something about herself – she was arrogant. After drinking no glasses of wine myself, I recognized that our times together had gotten less and less enjoyable because of what she just admitted to, her bad attitude. I understood her failed friendships and business deals. She disclosed her problem, but she didn’t mention fixing it.

We all go through bad days and difficult situations and stressful times, but when these turn habitual and we’re all-around hard to be around, we’re likely to lose business and friends and even family. Not much wears down a relationship like a bad attitude.

The other piece to this equation is the person who puts up with the bad attitude and adds to the problem.

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We can help turn people we care about into monsters by seldom confronting their behavior until it’s out of hand, and then becoming monstrous ourselves when we fight to change them back into kind people (if they ever were).

The quote at the beginning reminds me of teaching disabled children mainstreamed into my classroom. I watched in awe the ones who tried hard and showed gratitude even when their needs were high maintenance. I felt guilty about the disabled children I disliked until I noticed it wasn’t about the disability they couldn’t help, but the one they could change – their attitude.

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Here are a few insights that help me avoid becoming disabled by a bad attitude, my own or someone else’s.

 

  • Think about what behaviors make for a bad attitude. We don’t all agree. Some people think sarcasm is funny. I hate it.

 

  • Decide what we need to change. There are those of us who need to hear and heed, “You have a bad attitude. Change it.” The other half of us needs to know we can’t be kind enough to initiate a change in someone else’s bad attitude. By trying, we eventually get frustrated and unkind too.

 

  • Answer these questions to figure out what to change, which sometimes means changing a relationship status to inactive for a while or forever. Do we both want the relationship? Are we both willing to work at it? Are either of us feeling sorry for ourselves or blaming the other person? Are we both willing to talk and to listen?

 

  • Evaluate if there’s anything else I can do to fix or improve my attitude or offer help for theirs. We’re only helping them when they ask for help and want it. Otherwise, we’re enabling. We should avoid working harder on their attitude than they’re working at it because this never works.

 

  • Recognize we all have an attitude. Make it a good one as often as possible. Hang around others who do the same. Good attitudes rub off. So do bad ones and they’re harder to shake.

I’m harping lately on how we act and who we hang around since these matter wherever relationships matter – at home, the office, church, on the road, at the post office, everywhere.

Are you disabled by your bad attitude or by someone else’s? If so, how can you help yourself? #gettingyourownlife #whilelovingthepeopleinit #selfcaringin2017

In This Together,
Kim

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8 responses »

  1. Great essay, Kim.

    I think my attitude is generally pretty good, and under current circumstances it’s by choice. I’m coming off the Weekend From Hell – I’m told that I was literally screaming in pain. And I know that tomorrow is going to hurt. Worse.

    One can choose optimism, hope, and the belief, however unlikely it may seem, that every moment matter.

    What’s interesting is that there are people who really wANT me to have a bad attitude; they want me to be depressed, and to rail against the unfairness of it all.

    It’s puzzling.

    http://blessed-are-the-pure-of-heart.blogspot.com/2017/06/your-dying-spouse-327-whats-heaven-like.html

    • Our attitude is definitely a choice, Andrew. I love it and hate it for the same reasons – there’s no one to blame and it’s my responsibility. Some days I want to take it on and some days I don’t. Doesn’t matter, though. It’s still mine and I either suffer with it, get over it, or have a good one and enjoy my minutes.

      It is strange that anyone would want to see us down and out, but it’s as long standing as the quote that dates back to the 1700s, “Misery loves company.” We’re a strange lot … us humans. 🙂 I hope today was a good one for you.

  2. Great read Kim. Sarcasm is like salt to me, adding a lot can ruin your food, but just the right amount at the right time can make it perfect. =)

    • Hahahaha, Tim. You should get on Facebook Live and talk about salt. I’m serious. You can get by with sarcasm easier than most people.

      Thanks for stopping by. 🙂

  3. I have been surprised more than once to find that what is irritating me about someone else is a reflection of one of my own shortcomings – a sobering discovery. And one I’m grateful for. It allowed me to shift my focus from their annoyingness (new word just for the occasion!) to an attitude adjustment I needed to make myself.

    On another note, I’m saddened to hear about your hatred for sarcasm, Kim – I fear we will not be able to be friends due to the fact that my annoyingness may be too much for you. I’m with Tim regarding the salt analogy – I think a sprinkling of sarcasm here and there can add a little zip to an otherwise bland conversational exchange! 🙂

    • That’s it, Shel – you spot it, you got it.

      If you’re as funny as Tim, you could probably get by with it too. If not, then we’re probably headed for a break up. 🙂

      Thanks for leaving a comment.

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