In a study by David Day, PhD, and Elona Crain, undergraduate student leaders were asked to choose, based on a mental ability test and a questionnaire that measured attitude, who they would work with on a project.
More often than not, they picked the good attitude over superior ability. That's true for most of us. Attitude counts. It counts a lot. And it's something you can't really fake very well for long. You have to actually have a good attitude, not pretend like you do, because there are many subtle ways attitude is communicated through facial expressions, body language, and the way you approach things.
"We found that supervisors were able to pick up on negative traits such as anger, hostility, or irritability early in the relationship," said Day. "These traits can destroy a good working relationship almost before it begins."
How can you have a truly better attitude? Here is one simple method that works remarkably well: When you find yourself needlessly indulging in a negative feeling, like anxiety or feeling insulted, sternly and with great derision, say to yourself, "Get over it!" Try this on someone else, and it is extremely rude. But say it to yourself, and this one's a killer. It will kill unnecessary, namby-pamby coddling of yourself.
It is important to get in touch with your feelings, but it's also important to be done with some things and get on with your life. At some point getting in touch with your feelings becomes nursing hurt feelings or trying to make another person feel guilty for inflicting so much pain on you. That doesn't do you any good.
Instead, come from this attitude: Get over it! Say it like you want to say sometimes to people (if it wasn't so rude): "Yes, he certainly was a bad husband. But that was two years ago! Get over it and get on with your life! Quit your whining."
I have red hair and freckles, and so of course I don't tan very well. I've always admired a good tan, and when I was growing up, I always wished I could have darker skin. I am embarrassed to admit this feeling was with me until recently.
One day I was looking at my hand and seeing the pale skin with the spots on it, and the same old thoughts and feelings passed by in the background about how I hate my skin, when I noticed what I was thinking. "Oh, get over it!" I commanded myself curtly.
And without too much more than that, I was over it. We've all got some of those leftover thoughts and their accompanying feelings, and when you notice them, put them in a whole new light with this simple command. We get so hypnotized by thoughts and feelings, especially if they were repeated several times when we were young (either by someone else or by ourselves). Snap yourself out of it. With a sneering disgust at the stupidity of the useless thoughts going through your head — with disgust for the thoughts, not yourself — say, Oh, get over it! and you will sometimes be over it, just that quick.
But if the thought comes back, say it again, with an equal amount of contempt. And again with scorn, ridicule, despising rejection. Snap yourself out of the trance of that thought, and the spell will be broken sooner or later, and probably sooner.
Last night, I was working with several people, and it was a stressful situation. One of them snapped at me, and I found myself mulling over what he said and how I might respond to put him in his place. I am ashamed to say I was plotting revenge. I was nurturing hard feelings. I was cultivating hatred.
Then I snapped out of it. "Get over it," I said to myself with disgust. Am I that sensitive that I can't let something that petty go by? Of course I can let it go by! What am I doing mulling it over like it's important? What was it? A threat to my ego? Like a drill sergeant in my head, I yelled to myself: "Get over it!"
And I did. Just like that. All it took was the recognition that it was stupid to even be concerned with something so petty. That's all I needed to pull myself out of the little hypnotic trance I was inducing in myself.
This method helps you have a good attitude. Get over hanging onto negative feelings. Learn to let it go if it really isn't important, and it almost never is. Things will go better for you.
Adam Khan is the author of Self-Help Stuff That Works and Cultivating Fire: How to Keep Your Motivation White Hot. Follow his podcast, The Adam Bomb.