What kind of attitude do you have most of the time? One’s attitude impacts their thinking, feelings and behavior towards situations, people and events. A positive attitude can lead to outcomes you want, while a negative attitude can result in the opposite.

The three components of attitude are:

  1. cognitive (your thoughts and beliefs on a topic)
  2. affective (how an object, person, issue or event makes you feel)
  3. behavioral (how attitude influences your behavior)

Here are some examples of attitudes:

  • What happens to your mood when the weather is poor
  • Your thoughts about which political party is better for the country
  • Whether climate change is real or not, and what should be done about it
  • Whether or not you take things that happen around you personally, such as perceiving slights in the behavior of other drivers

Where Attitudes Come From

  • Attitudes can form directly from experience. They may come from things that have happened to us, or things we have seen.
  • Social roles and norms can have a strong influence on attitudes. Social roles are how people are expected to behave in particular roles or contexts. Social norms involve society’s rules for what behaviors are considered acceptable.
  • Attitudes can be learned. In advertising, for example, you are unconsciously or automatically taught to associate a desired outcome with a specific stimulus (the Pavlov’s dog experiments proved this method of learning, called Classical Conditioning.) In a commercial, you see young, beautiful people having fun on a tropical beach while enjoying a certain soda. This attractive and appealing imagery causes you to associate this drink with fun.

Another type of learning is called Operant Conditioning. Suppose you take up smoking cigarettes. Every time you light up, your friends complain, tell you how dirty and unhealthy the habit is, and ask you to move away from them. This negative feedback eventually causes you to build a negative opinion of smoking and maybe give up the habit.

  • We also develop attitudes by observing. If someone we look up to holds a certain opinion, we may be likely to take on this same belief. For example, children who see their parents enjoying the outdoors often become adults who like to hike, camp, kayak, etc.

The most notable impact that an individual’s attitude has on their behavior is in their social interactions.

What Happens When You Have a Positive Attitude

People who have a positive outlook towards life tend to have more successful and healthy relationships:

  • They are more likely to listen actively, compromise and communicate effectively, fostering a better understanding and connection with others.
  • Individuals with a positive attitude tend to be more highly- motivated.
  • They see challenges as opportunities, and their attitude helps them overcome obstacles and setbacks.
  • They are more proactive and enthusiastic at work, have better job satisfaction and tend to stay at jobs longer.

The outcomes of a Negative Attitude

On the other hand, individuals with a negative attitude approach situations and people with skepticism, cynicism and mistrust:

  • They tend to focus on the negative aspects of circumstances and lack the ability to see the positives.
  • They often complain, resist change and have a low threshold for stress, which leads to poor outcomes both personally and professionally.

A positive attitude can lead to a happier, more fulfilling life — with a brighter future! Attitudes can also be changed. If one realizes they are often a Debbie Downer, they can notice, challenge and change those negative beliefs.

This takes practice, but it can be done. A coach or counselor can help you become aware of and change your attitude.

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