For the majority of presentations I conduct, I administer an on-line anonymous survey to get a better feel for what’s going on inside the organization.
Question number one is, “On a typical day, how would you rate your attitude?”
Respondents choose from five answers:
- Extremely upbeat
- Pretty Good
- Below average
- Extremely poor
I’ll fess up the fact that it’s not a very scientific question, but neither do you need to work for NASA to answer it. In a nutshell, it’s a fancy way of saying, “How ya’ doin’?”
Out of the thousands who have responded, approximately 79 percent have said that their average-day attitude is “pretty good” or “extremely upbeat.” In effect, that could mean that you — the person reading this — has about an 79 percent chance of saying your attitude (most of the time) falls in one of those two categories. (By the way, only one percent responds “extremely poor.”)
Another way to parse that would be, if we were to ask people to use a one-to-ten scale, with the highest number being “ecstatic,” and the bottom being “suicidal;” the regular person on an ordinary day would say, “It’s about eight.”
Question two rates in the same fashion the attitude of those with whom we interact most often: family members, co-workers, and friends. Here the indicator slides to 52 percent. Using the same interpretation as above, that implies that we feel that, although we’d give ourselves an “eight,” we’d label others a “five.” (Imagine how much it would deteriorate if they didn’t have the pleasure of our charming, upbeat positivity to buoy their sagging moods!)
Finally, question three inquires about, “The attitude of those with whom you come in contact on a daily basis?” That scope involves everyone else we bump into, such as clerks, attendants, or phone reps, in effect the river of population flowing across our paths in a typical 24-hour period.
Using the same measuring scale, we sense that only about 31 percent of “those people” possess a “pretty good” or “extremely upbeat” outlook. To spin that yet one more way, we feel that only about one out of three, or one-third, of everyone we meet has a better-than-average attitude.
Each of us feels we’re personally doing pretty well, and the folks in the circles in which we travel are holding their own. However, we seem to be pretty judgmental about everyone else, assuming that they really need to get their acts together (which they are, of course, assuming about us).
The hitch in the get along is that attitude is transparent and contagious. We can spot a “negative person” instantly. His supposed attitude is loudly broadcast via body language, facial expressions, even tone of voice. We return those perceptions without thought, making countless assumptions, which we communicate. The drawback is, as evidenced here, we might not be responding to what’s really going on inside of them, as much as to what’s occurring within us.
While at the gas station, or bank, or simply standing in line at the grocery store, we have a tendency to assume, “I’m doing okay – but these yokels around me, what’s their problem?” The deal is they’re looking at us, and doing the same thing; creating an infinite, expanding loop of negative feedback.
It can’t hurt to judge less and assume better; we’ll all find ourselves surrounded by a better class of people, who were actually there the whole time.