What if…

Gary Lester

What if it isn’t about your skin color? What if it isn’t about your ethnic background? What if it isn’t about your religious beliefs, even deeply, deeply held ones? What if it isn’t about your socio-economic status, or nationality, or gender? What if it’s all about your attitude?

You see, many of those things are pretty much pre-determined. You can’t do anything about some of them, like skin color and ethnic background, and there’s no reason you should. The exceptions might be socioeconomic status, at least initially, and religion. People do start with low economic status, but lots of people raise it. And there are certain pressures that can make this difficult; generations of dependency, never learning a work ethic, etc…. And of course some religions are embraced, or imposed, or even enforced from birth to death. Some will argue that those are insurmountable issues that an individual can’t escape.

But there’s good news in all this. There’s that one thing, that attitude thing… that you can change. And you know what? It’s really easy. And you know what else? It can have the biggest impact of all.

First, it requires that we be willing to shift our attitude away from all those other factors. Certainly, they are always with us, but so what? Why do they have to be the determining factors in our lives? Suppose everyone said: “I don’t care about my, or anyone else’s, color, ethnic background, religious beliefs, gender orientation, etc.?” OK, OK, I don’t mean you need to totally ignore those things or give up caring about those things. Traditions and cultures have value. You just have to shift the emphasis away from them.

I like most of the people I meet. I always give them a chance, even if I get a negative first impression. I have met a few people to whom I have given the benefit of the doubt, and it turned out I simply didn’t like them. But you know what? I’ve never disliked anyone because of those criteria listed above. I don’t hate based on color, ethnicity, religious beliefs, gender…. But attitudes? I sure do hate some of those. And I think in every case where I came to dislike someone, it was the attitude that was problematic for me.

I hate attitudes that demand respect without giving any. I hate attitudes of entitlement. I hate the perpetual victim attitude. I hate those attitudes no matter who has them. I guess I’m an equal opportunity attitude hater. Maybe I’m an “attitudist.”

There are people with the characteristics listed in the first paragraph who will thrive in life and there are people with those characteristics who will fail. Most people will experience both success and failure. And while it’s popular (and easier) to blame or credit those characteristics for successes and failures, doesn’t the fact that some people who have them succeed suggest that they aren’t doom — creators? What’s common with successful people is that they have a good attitude. They’re affable, they know how to use their talents, they like to work with others, they’re positive, they’re assertive (not aggressive), they have both a serious side and a silly side and know how and when to use them.

Think again about the people in all those original listed categories. Why are there so many different outcomes across all the characteristics?

Let’s get down to business. Dr. William Glasser has some ideas about attitudes and how they affect relationships. He refers to them as “habits” and he has lists of caring ones and deadly ones.

The deadly ones are: complaining, blaming, bribing, nagging, threatening, punishing, criticizing, and labeling. People with primary attitudes like those can be miserable to be around, are unlikely to be able to form decent relationships, and are limiting the possibility of being successful.

Caring ones include: trusting, respecting, encouraging, supporting, negotiating differences, listening, and accepting. (I’ve taken the liberty of adding “sense of humor” to the list….) Think about how people who practice those habits differ from the people who practice the deadly ones. I’ll bet they’re more successful in everything they attempt.

It doesn’t matter what kind of relationships we’re talking about; intimate, parent-child, employer-employee, teacher-student, political… The good ones are filled with the caring habits that define attitudes that work. Who would you rather be around? The person with the good attitude who exhibits the caring habits, right? How’s your attitude? Do a little self-analysis to see where you fit into these categories.

Gary Lester is a lifetime area resident, a former photographer for the Times-Observer, former market manager for WhirleyDrinkworks, retired Executive Director of Family Services of Warren County, and current Director of Leadership Warren County. He is a life-long student and commentator on human behavior.