People change when you change your attitude toward them.
Some years ago, there’s the story told of a banker who often dropped a coin in a beggar’s cup. Unlike most people, the banker would insist on getting one of the pencils the beggar had with him. The banker would say, “You are a merchant, and I always expect to receive good value from the merchants with whom I do business.”
That daily routine went on for some time, but one day the poor street beggar was gone. Time passed, and the banker forgot about him.
Years later the banker walked by a little store, and there was the former beggar, now a shopkeeper. The shopkeeper said, “I always hoped you might come by some day. You are largely responsible for me being here. You kept telling me I was a merchant. I started to think of myself that way, instead of a beggar looking for handouts. I started selling pencils, lots of them. And today I’ve got a little business. You gave me self-respect. You made me look at myself differently.”
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that people don’t change. That’s baloney! An ignorant person will tell you that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. I like Dr. Robert Hutchins’ response to that. As the former chancellor of the University of Chicago, he said, “Human beings are not dogs, and education is not a bag of tricks.”
The fact of the matter is, PEOPLE OFTEN CHANGE WHEN YOU CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE TOWARD THEM. That was evident in a Brooklyn, New York classroom of eleventh grade boys. These particular boys were so difficult that they caused seven teachers in six weeks to quit their jobs. 70% of the boys were drug users, and 65% had been arrested.
Out of desperation, the only other teacher the principal could find was a 69-year old lady he called out of retirement. He told her he would have a policeman in the room to protect her. But she said, “Let me look at the list of boys’ names.” She did, and immediately she perked up and said, “Don’t worry about me. I love teaching, and I love boys. There won’t be any problems.”
The net result was she stayed the entire year. The boys became well behaved young men who made their best grades ever. It was a miraculous turnaround.
Because of her success, the school gave her a recognition banquet. They all praised her, and they all wondered what her secret was. She said it was simple. When she first looked at the list of boys’ names, she noticed every one of them had a score next to his name, a high score between 120 and 160. She said when she saw their IQ’s, she knew instantly it would be a super class.
The principal was flabbergasted. He said, “Didn’t you know? When you looked at the list of boys’ names, those weren’t their IQ’s. Those were their locker numbers.”
Apparently it was attitude that made the difference. The first seven teachers saw the negative behavior of the boys, had a negative attitude toward them, acted defensively, and got a disastrous response. The 69-year old teacher came with a positive attitude about the boys’ potential, and that changed her behavior and their response.
Do people change? Of course they do. But the change is often preceded by your attitude toward them.
So how do you develop a positive attitude towards people? After all, some people aren’t very nice or very likeable. Let me give you a quick checklist–NEXT WEEK.
Action: Attitudes are like skills. With practice they can be strengthened. To strengthen your positive attitude towards people, practice visualization for the next three weeks. Take one or two minutes every day to see yourself as a positive person. Your mind will do its best to make your picture a reality.