Attitude Is a Big Dog That Must Be Tamed

“My coworker pulled me aside the other day and told me my negativity was bringing everyone down. I can’t change my entire personality for them, but are there small things I can do to make our working relationship easier?” Mike from Chicago

Close your eyes and imagine holding onto the leash of a really huge dog. Think of the biggest dog you have ever seen, and make it even bigger. This dog goes with you everywhere. It is with you all day, from the moment you wake up to the moment you fall asleep. It seems to have a mind of its own. Though you may be able to train it, you cannot let go of the leash. The two of you are permanently attached! You may forget that it is with you, but everyone you meet sees your dog before they even notice you. It will be your master unless you learn to train it and control it.

Now consider this—the huge dog is your attitude. If the dog is friendly and polite, people are impressed by it and react positively. If the dog appears hostile or defensive, people want to avoid being around it. If the dog is trained to use its strength for a good, it can accomplish a lot. If untrained, the dog can destroy opportunities and relationships.

Changing your attitude is different from changing your personality. You were hired, in part, because of the person you are. However, exhibiting a negative attitude can inhibit your working relationships and even hold you back in your career.

But, this is something you can change. You can train yourself to portray a more positive attitude. And once you are outwardly positive, you may even see some internal changes that surprise you.

  • Smile and say hello—When you come to work in the morning, are you grouchy until you’ve had your coffee, or do you say good morning to your colleagues? How you enter the office is in your control and it sets the tone for the rest of the day. If you come in with a positive attitude, it will take more to drag you down. Maybe this means waking up earlier and doing something before work that will make you happy. It could be exercising, it could be reading something inspirational or motivational, or it could simply be walking an extra block in the sunshine.
  • Filter your comments—Although you want your personality to shine through at work, in some instances, you need to dilute it. When someone gives you unpleasant news—constructive criticism, personnel changes, shorter deadlines—you may be upset on the inside, but you can’t show this to everyone. If your peers or manager know you’re upset, it can bring down the whole team and you could be offered fewer opportunities in the future. Instead, thank the person for letting you know what’s going on, develop a game plan if need be and hold onto your full opinion until you can share it in private with a close friend or loved one.
  • Accentuate the positive—When you encounter challenges at work, do you worry about how you will overcome them, or do you work to find a solution? Even if you are worried on the inside, you want to portray yourself as someone who takes care of things. When you may be thinking, “I can’t do this! What are we going to do?” you need to express, “We can do this! Let’s work together to figure it out.” If you start by focusing on the positive and what you can do, you will have an easier time addressing the rest.

Remember, attitude is contagious. If you constantly make negative comments, complain or even make facial expressions that convey unhappiness, it will catch on. Conversely, if you focus on the positive, find solutions and put on a happy face, others will follow.