“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.
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 had 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.
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.
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,