For many years, I felt uncomfortable when someone started talking about another person’s “attitude.” It seemed that the speaker was angry and wanted to make the other person change. When the angry person exploded with “I don’t like your attitude,” it was as if they expected the other person to just have a better one. This did not make sense to me so I did some research and thinking about what an attitude is.
I learned that there are several factors in an attitude. (1) A particular situation. (2) The thoughts a person has about the situation. (3) His or her feelings about the situation. (4) The behaviors that result from these thoughts and feelings. An attitude is a set of small behaviors that occur from a person’s thoughts and feelings.
The problem is that no one can simply tell someone else to change the thoughts and feelings another person has and expect it to happen. Either the situation has to be changed or both people involved need to change their thoughts and feelings that result in their behaviors. Occasionally we can change the situation. Usually, we have to change our thoughts and feelings. And each individual must do this for their own self — no one can make another person do this.
Changing our thoughts and feelings is a lot easier said than done. Feelings just are and give us important information. Feelings rise up according to what is going on around and within us. There is no such thing as a “wrong” or “bad” feeling; everyone has a right to their own emotions and no one can make another person change his or her feelings.
However, our thoughts influence our feelings, and can be modified to create positive feelings and behaviors. When we are in a situation with a person who does something resulting in our having strong feelings we can choose to manage our feelings. Changing how we think about the other person’s behavior will often help us do that. Working with the other person to communicate our thoughts and feelings is even more helpful.
Situations are complex and often involve longer relationships, such as those between partners or parents and children. Naturally changing an attitude is more difficult for children. As children grow and their brains develop they can gradually learn how to do this. Since children learn relationship skills from adults it’s best for adults to work on their own attitude first then help the child do the same.
It’s important for adults to realize that the only person we have direct control over is our self. Although we can influence another person’s attitude, we cannot change it. Changing an attitude is the right and responsibility of the owner. This is an individual’s power.