About 7 years ago, I was fortunate enough to hear Joe Martin speak at a WI-ACE conference in Chicago about “Effective Service Leadership and Mental and Emotional Attitude.” Among the many things I learned from that talk was the idea that there is no rule stating we are required to consume the attitudes of the people around us. Wait a sec. I thought that people’s bad attitudes were like infectious diseases…once you’re exposed, you’re doomed! Not according to Prof. Martin. He argued that attitudes, both positive and negative, were more like items on a menu. As consumers, we tend to know what we want from the products we purchase or consume. If you were to go to a local Italian restaurant with a hankering for lasagna and the only item on the menu was stuffed shells, you likely wouldn’t settle for that one menu item. You’d probably leave and find a place that had lasagna. Likewise, Prof. Martin argued that we need not be passive consumers of the bad attitudes of the people around us.
Mind you, it isn’t always easy to remain unaffected by the grumpy, crabby people in our lives, especially if they are people with whom you must interact on a regular basis. Let’s be honest, sometimes, it’s hard to resist those juicy burgers or flaky pies that are so well-advertised. But, as consumers, we have the choice to select the menu item that’s bad for our health or the one that’s good. We can do the same when it comes to the attitudes that we allow to affect us. After all, there’s evidence that shows that positive attitudes are beneficial to our health. (One such example.)
Here are some practical things you can do to stave off the grumpies when someone tries to serve you a big slice of crabby pie:
- Fill your mind with positive thoughts – no seriously. Listen to music you love, read a favorite poem, recall a memory that fills you with joy.
- Do something you enjoy.
- Take on a mentally challenging activity – the busier your mind is, the less likely you will be to dwell on ol’ grumpy pants.
- Pray for ol’ grumpy pants, or think positive thoughts towards him/her.
- Go out of your way to be helpful to someone, but expect nothing in return.
- Spend some time with a child (preferably, a non-grumpy child)
You can’t control the people around you or the attitudes they present to you. But, you always have control over the way those attitudes affect you. Now that makes me happy!