Mary doesn’t think Sam is good enough for her daughter Sarah. Sam was very nervous when he first met Mary and made a bad impression by being too much of a show-off. Mary has harbored a judgmental attitude about Sam ever since, and the air is filled with tension every time Sarah and Sam come over for a visit.
Sarah loves Sam and feels that they’re very compatible. Mary can see that she’s forcing Sarah to choose between Sam and herself, and that her daughter’s leaning toward Sam. She doesn’t want to damage her relationship with Sarah, but she doesn’t know how to change her attitude about Sam.
Many people have a negative attitude that limits their happiness. In relationships, a bad attitude causes you to be critical, impatient, disgusted, or distant. Directed inward, a negative attitude causes you to worry, to get down on yourself, or to numb yourself to stressful emotions with food, booze, shopping, etc.
To replace an attitude that’s negatively impacting your relationships, you’ll need to uncover the underlying belief that is creating the feeling that someone isn’t good enough. You’ll need to discover why it is that you mistrust their ability to have a decent relationship with you, especially when there’s probably evidence demonstrating that they have some redeeming qualities. You’ll need to understand why there are times that you harbor fear in your heart about whether you’ll be able to resolve a problem with a particular person.
When you know the deeper truth about how you acquired your negative attitude, you can commit to changing your beliefs about yourself and others. If you protect yourself because a person hurt you in the past, you can learn to forgive people so that you’re able to release painful experiences. Developing the belief that a person can learn and grow will allow the pain of past encounters to pass through your thoughts rather than continuing to torment you.
Intention, not past behavior, is the best predictor of the future. Decide how a healthy new attitude would enable you to create positive outcomes. If you shy away from forming close connections because you fear that people will let you down, picture the joy of a relationship far outweighing any momentary lapses.
If a negative attitude about someone is adversely affecting your life, ask yourself, “What would it look like if I was happier in my relationship with ______?” Then ask how you’ve repaired relationships in the past. How did you turn around a problem situation with someone at work? How have you resolved a hurtful exchange with a loved one? What were the steps that enabled you to move forward? Apply those strategies to the person who presenting a challenge now.
If you’re still struggling to give up your critical attitude toward someone, recall times you made mistakes earlier in your life. Were you able to be compassionate toward yourself by maintaining an attitude that trial and error was the only way for you to learn some important life lessons?
To transform critical thoughts, recognize the negative emotions that are contaminating your thinking – mistrust, hurt, resentment, and righteous indignation. Tell yourself, “STOP!” Then take a deep, cleansing breath and shift your focus to your picture of a positive outcome.
The momentum for change will be accelerated each time you find an opportunity to use your positive pictures. From time to time you’ll subconsciously slip back into your old habits. Simply shift thoughts of bad outcomes to positive possibilities in order to maintain your motivation. Over several weeks’ time your positive attitude will prevail as you learn to consistently bring new images of how you want your emerging relationship to work into alignment with your behaviors.
In Mary’s case, she remembered that she’d succeeded in her business by building on people’s positive potential. Mary began to use her business attitude of “catch people doing things right” in order to focus on any positive engagements with Sarah and Sam. She started telling herself that Sarah could master the skills to be able to handle the inevitable missteps that occur in any relationship.
When Mary began to compliment her daughter and boyfriend on how comfortable they seemed as a couple, the atmosphere completely changed. Sarah recognized her mother’s efforts and was very touched. Needless to say, Sam was deeply grateful. Mary ended up basking in the warm glow of being a part of building an extended loving family. Over time Mary became Sam’s mentor, and they’ve both benefited as a result.