Off The Wall, April 30, 2010

I can’t say enough how one word, attitude, affects everyone with whom we come in contact. I think it is part of being a human being. If we dig into its actual definition, it’s “a state of mind or feeling.” From a psychological point of view, attitudes are judgments that have three facets - affect, behavior, and cognition. The affective response is an emotional response that expresses an individual’s degree of preference for an entity. The behavioral intention is a verbal indication or typical behavioral tendency of an individual. The cognitive response is a cognitive evaluation of the entity that constitutes individual’s beliefs about the object. Most attitudes are the result of observational learning from the environment or direct experiences. What will follow are some examples of the latter.

Back in February, I decided to donate my time for a worthy cause by seeking donations for the Forbes Trail Chapter of Trout Unlimited, a Westmoreland County organization that sets it goals highly on conservation, restoration of resources and education of youth. I thought to myself, knowing all the work this organization has done for the general public, why not give them a hand by collecting donations such as gift certificates or items for its banquet and raffle. What I was met with was attitude. My approach was very polite, down to earth and to the point. Yet, day in and day out, I was hit was attitude.

One business employee, upon answering the phone, hung up on me. Another woman told me, “Everyone wants our money. We have to make a living.” And another, “We have to be very selective who we give our gift certificates to.”

I did walk into one business here in Latrobe. The manager was very friendly when I introduced myself. He was most amiable throughout my short stay, read over some information I presented him, and told me to come back in a day or so, and he would have something for me. Even if he had told me that he didn’t give out gift certificates, his attitude was fantastic and that was definitely a drawing card for me to patronize his business in the future.

One final note before I move on. Gift certificates draw people to businesses. FTTU officers told me that they never heard of a restaurant from which they received a gift certificate. By someone winning this prize, it may be the perfect drawing card. That is the purpose of gift certificates – to draw, not widdle away business’ incomes.

“Everybody has a bad day,” is a common saying from ages past. I certainly had mine that one day. I walked into businesses time and time again where I felt I was trespassing or interrupting something. Attitude can shun, and it will have a negative affect on others. Smiling, gracious, friendly people attract others. I consider it a magnet.

I run into this attitude “problem” not only at businesses, but anywhere people gather. If there ever is a rule of thumb, remember this: Everyone has attitudes. When the fires begin to burn, differences surface. If everyone’s’ thoughts were the same, everybody would be on the same page, and there would be harmonious living. But that’s not reality.

So, what do we do when faced with those whose attitude is different than ours?

First, and foremost, through the whole confrontation, if possible, always be friendly.

Second, if differences can’t be amended through the course of a civil conversation, walk away. Don’t get into a heated debate.

Third, be tactful. Making rude or out-of-line remarks unbecoming a person’s position, such as a member of the clergy, fire or police department should be avoided at all costs.

Fourth, don’t shout at another. One’s physical make-up may be apparent, but not his mental stability. This verbal abuse may cause greater harm beyond one’s imagination.

And fifth, don’t belittle. One who does this is only showing off his instability. Loved ones or relatives are often guilty of causing low self-esteem in others. They should be the backbone of one’s character – not suppressing one to feeling unworthy.

There are always two ways to do things –one way (good) or the other (bad). If we don’t chew on our words before we spit them out, we may cause more harm than good. Improve one’s attitude and one will be better for it.

- Paul J. Volkmann
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