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In a world where stress has reached an all-time high, attitude problems are in abundance—from the impatient person behind you in the grocery store checkout to the friend who constantly blames others and make excuses to the co-worker who complains about people and policy all day. People with perpetual attitude problems are no fun to be around and their energy can turn even the most positive environment toxic.
You don’t want to be that person, so learn how to identify when your own bad attitude is kicking in and how to stop it in its tracks.
An attitude problem is an emotional state that’s counterproductive to your desired results. This emotional state turns into a behavior as a result of an unresolved issue that you’re either unaware of or would rather not deal with. The affect of this behavior is the triggering of our built-in defense mechanism that causes us to form judgmental opinions that we then spin onto others in the form of a reactive behavior.
The first step is to become aware of your overall attitude toward life, and your relationships and your interactions within them. You must first become aware that you're behaving in unflattering ways so you can catch yourself in the act and make positive changes. If you’re able to see patterns where you’re overly reactive, defensive, self-righteous, or just plain negative, you’re someone who’s dealing with an attitude problem. This isn't something to beat yourself up over. To some extent, each of us have bad days and display behaviors that can be problematic or off-putting to others. This is called being human and, if you can shift your ways of thinking, you will see that the recognition is a good thing.
Here are a few bad-attitude behavioral signs to watch for and what you can do to catch yourself before collateral damage has been done.
When others express opinions that aren’t in alignment with your own and you refuse to consider another point of view to the extent you defend, protect, and impose your beliefs onto others, this is a sure sign of an attitude problem. If you’re insistent that you’re right and the other person is wrong, you're holding onto a self-righteous position and this highlights an opportunity to loosen your grip.
The next time you find yourself in a conversation with someone who expresses opinions that you don’t jive with, see if you can just listen to what they’re saying with an open mind. One option might be to simply let them share their opinion and then thank them for sharing. Another option might be to tell them you appreciate their perspective and that, while you may not agree, you respect that everyone has a right to their own beliefs. Last, ask yourself the questions, "Do I need to be right or do I want to have peace?" The objective is to appreciate that, although we may see things differently, we can still love and appreciate one another.
If you’re someone who sees the glass as half empty, you’re constantly complaining, nothing is going well in your life, or you have a jaded opinion about other people, this is an indication that a shift in perspective is much-needed. Attacking the credibility and reputation of others, shooting down their ideas, hopes and dreams, and being unsupportive when good things happen to others are indicators that you need to check your attitude.
Practice going one full day—or even one hour—without complaining about anything. Look for positive qualities in people and celebrate them. In every instance where life doesn't go your way, see if you can find the gifts you wouldn’t have otherwise gotten had things not turned out the way that they did. When something amazing happens for someone else—they meet the love of their life or they land the perfect job—express happiness and joy for them. Make a commitment to recognize the lessons life is teaching you in every moment. Doing this will train you to turn life’s challenges into positive learning opportunities.
Whenever there is an accumulation of unresolved negative emotion, a person will lean toward high levels of irrational or unwarranted reactivity. Think of the person who unnecessarily blows up or blows things out of proportion. No one likes to be around this type of person because their behavior is often scary. When people feel like they need to walk on egg shells around you for fear of setting you off, this is a sign of an attitude gone bad.
If you’re feeling like there are pent-up negative emotions bubbling just below the surface much of the time, be extra precautious to not scorch the village. First and most importantly, see if you can find someone to talk with—a therapist, a coach, or a friend—to get to the bottom of what is causing your unrest and work on resolving it.
In the meantime, whenever you notice you’re feeling charged up around certain people or environments, take a walk around the block, take a few deep breaths, and do your best to consciously choose to not interrupt, react, or blow up. One way to practice this is to just observe what is happening from a place of objectivity. See if you can imagine that you’re just watching it on the screen of a television and that it’s not actually happening in your reality. This will help you to create a little bit of buffer between you and the situation. Once you've let things cool off, you can then come back to resolve the circumstance more effectively.
If your romantic, friendship, family, and business relationships are not in a healthy state, the problem might not be them—it might be you. We often expect other people to know what we need and when they don't do things in the way we hoped, we often lash out by blaming them. When communication breaks down and we're not able to see eye to eye, sometimes we shut down, disconnect, or tell the other person it's their fault. Look at your relationships and see if you can identify where the issue may be with you. Notice how you’re feeling about yourself, and how you’re reacting to situations and interacting with other people.
If more than a couple of your relationships aren’t flowing smoothly or, worse, they’re flat out bombing, it may be worth asking yourself, “What is it in this relationship that isn’t working?” Another worthwhile question to ask yourself is, “Is there something I need in this relationship that I’m not getting?”
Discovering the weak or missing link can often give us something tangible to look at and work with. Then you can approach the other person from a place of clarity and make your request come from a place of love and kindness. Ultimately, both sides need to feel heard and respected.
There's an old saying, "It's not what you say or do, it's how you say or do things." Often times we don’t realize that we’re coming across in a way that others find condescending, overbearing, or just plain mean. If more than one person is telling you there is an attitude problem present, chances are there is. You might be using words, tone, facial expressions, and body language that others perceive as aggressive or uncooperative, and it's something you'll want to remedy if you hope to get along with others.
This can be a difficult position to be in and it’s also an incredible opportunity to make course corrections. No one wants to hear from someone else that they’re out of line and, yet, many times we don’t even realize that we need to be “checked.” When we can openly receive feedback from others about our behavior, we’re able to shift the ways in which we’re showing up to create a more harmonious experience for everyone involved.
At the end of the day, we all want the same things—love and happiness. In order to achieve these things we’re invited to learn from our past. Without opportunities for growth there would be no contrast in our lives, and any piece of art worth having always displays varying levels of contrast. Without the pain and discomfort of growth and learning, we wouldn’t have the ability to appreciate the exhilaration that comes from love and happiness.
An attitude problem today shows us where there is work to be done and, if we heed our call, higher levels of learning, understanding, and connection await.