We human beings are complex characters, aren’t we? We have so many similarities on the surface – and yet, we are all different. Every individual is shaped by countless factors including genetics, upbringing, economic status, schooling, past relationships and on and on. As a result, our attitude, or outlook, is formed by our life experiences and plays a big part in how we think of ourselves, how we react and how we are perceived.
Typically, our attitude is reflected in our behavior, whether we realize it or not. The people we interact with may categorize our attitude as “good” or “bad”, depending on the situation, and so we may need to “adjust” our attitude if we want to convey what’s appropriate. Maybe you’ve experienced the need to consciously mask your attitude toward something – say, dislike of a colleague – in order to act appropriately and professionally. In order to do this effectively, we must recognize that how we feel about things will always inform, if not influence, our behavior.
Many people believe that they are or can be completely objective, but that is not something that comes naturally to most of us. It takes conscious effort. Sometimes we must “act as if” we’re objective, despite our personal feelings. Why do people do this? There are many reasons. Perhaps you don’t want to offend someone or appear negative. Perhaps you don’t think much of your boss’s latest strategy to increase sales, but she is convinced it’s a sure-fire approach. So, you choose to display an attitude of objectivity and even enthusiasm that you don’t actually feel because this is what’s required at your job.
Another reason one may mask their instinctive attitude about something is because they’re in a position of authority where being objective is paramount, like a judge in a court of law. A person in such a position learns how to speak for the people, or the court, or the issue, but not for him or herself. Watching his or her attitude is critical to the efficacy and fairness of such a position.
Entrepreneurs, consultants, and freelance professionals face an interesting challenge in soliciting and obtaining work because they are always looking for opportunities, and, to keep their businesses going, need to be many things to many people. They are essentially selling themselves over and over to whatever stakeholder communities they wish to work for. In some cases, such as marketing or public relations, they actually speak for those they represent, putting their own voices completely on hold. So it is most important that these entrepreneurial professionals be aware of how they will be perceived, and understand that they may need to adjust their behavior to reflect the right attitude for a given opportunity. Of course, this can be easier said than done.
In business, many of us have become adept at projecting the right attitude for the moment, but it can be difficult to find a balance between our self-image, or identity, and the attitude we convey to land the job or achieve the desired results. We don’t want to be disingenuous or present a face to the world that is inauthentic or erodes our credibility, yet we need to put food on the table. So what do we do?
When a situation requires you to adjust your attitude in order to create a positive outcome, there are some things to keep in mind that can help your thoughts and actions stay on track:
- Recognize that change can be a good thing. When you look at things from a new perspective or take time to self-assess, it can open the door for new opportunities.
- Allow yourself to change and adapt. Who you are, what you think, and how you react to things does not need to stay the same all your life. Allow yourself to reinvent your life and “who you are.” Just as our tastes change over time, so can our views, actions, and reactions.
- Agree to disagree. Just because your view is different from someone else’s doesn’t mean either of you are wrong or right. Being professional means you can keep your own ideas, opinions, and attitudes without minimizing that of others.
- Step back and look at the bigger picture. When you look at the main goal, what’s really important here? Look deep into yourself to get this answer and it will help you determine the best way to adjust your attitude or change your direction.
If you can “act as if” when you need to put your own attitude aside and embrace the notion that your story — which influences your attitude — is always evolving, you can be a highly valuable business asset to those who need your expertise and expect you to have an attitude that syncs with their own.