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. But I will tell you that human beings are not dogs and education is not a bag of tricks. The truth is...
1. People 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."
It was her attitude toward the boys 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.
In other words, if you see a person as a loser, you will probably treat that person as a loser. And more often than not, the other person will respond like a loser. But if you approach that same person with a positive attitude, if you see the potential in the other person, he will often exhibit his potential.
So let me ask you, "Do people change?" Of course they do. But the change is often preceded by your changed attitude toward them.
That being the case, how do you develop the right attitude about people? How can you bring out their best?
2. Picture Yourself As an Understanding Individual.
Stop seeing yourself as impatient. Stop telling yourself you're no good with people. And stop telling yourself you're too much of a techie ... or whatever ... to really get into "this people thing." Start seeing yourself as understanding, patient, and kind. And hold that picture in your mind for a few seconds every day. The more you practice your picture, the more you'll become that way.
3. Affirm Your Desire to Understand People.
There are times you won't like what you see in other people. Their behavior turns you off. And you will have little or no desire to understand why they behave the way they do.
To short circuit such reactions, you need to affirm your desire to understand people. Tell yourself, "I want to understand people. I want to understand what makes them tick. And I want to understand every person with whom I interact." Tell yourself these kinds of affirmations and you will create the desire you need to build the attitude you want.
4. Recognize the Drive in Others.
It may seem obvious, but lots of people ignore a basic truth -- that no one wants to be a failure. Everyone wants to succeed. Everyone wants to achieve something or be somebody.
Of course, not everyone looks that way. On the surface, some people look so depressed, down, and negative, that they don't seem to have any ambition whatsoever.
Despite their appearance, I would contend that deep down, somewhere inside those people, there is still a little spark of desire to have or be more. If you will remember that, it will be much easier to have a positive attitude toward such people.
And it will be much easier to bring out their best. As Bill Hewlett, one of the founders of Hewlett Packard said, "Our policy flows from the belief that men and women want to do a good job, a creative job, and if they are provided with the proper environment they will do so."
5. Be Slow to Judge.
The Native American Indians knew this. They prayed, "Great Spirit, help me never to judge another until I have walked two weeks in his moccasins." They knew it was easy to write someone off if they only looked at the outside of the person. But they also knew they were less likely to judge someone if they just put themselves in the other person's shoes.
The Christian tradition takes it bit further. They say, "Hate the sin but not the sinner." In other words, you can't condone and you shouldn't condone wrongful behavior. However, it's a lot easier to accept someone if you restrict your dislike to his wrongful behavior rather than his entire personhood.
6. See the Good in Others.
It's amazing how some people are determined to look for the bad in others. They almost seem to get a kick out of finding fault in someone else. Of course, truly effective people think quite differently. They know there's always something good in others. As American folk hero Will Rogers said, "I never met a person I didn't like...but sometimes you got to look real hard."
That was the case with Bill, a person that attended my two-day Journey-to-the-Extraordinary program. Bill said even though he is a very successful businessman today, he was a major problem as an adolescent. He was selling drugs in junior high, and he was in and out of reform school, constantly in trouble. Bill told me had it not been for one teacher in 12th grade he believed he would be in prison today.
Bill continued. He said when he walked into his 12th grade English class, the teacher pulled him aside. Mrs. Wolfkowitz said, "Bill, you've got quite a reputation around here. I've been told you're no good. But I want you to know I don't see it that way."
Mrs. Wolfkowitz continued, "I've seen you help out a few younger students and I've seen you be quite polite on occasion. I believe there's goodness inside of you and that's what I expect to see this year in my class." Bill said Mrs. Wolfkowitz was the first person who ever spoke to him that way and from that day forward, he changed for the better.
History is full of stories of gifted people whose talents were overlooked by a host of people. And their talents lay dormant until someone looked for the good in them. Such was the case with Einstein, who couldn't speak until he was four years old. And such was the case with Walt Disney, who was fired by a newspaper editor who said he had no good ideas. Until someone saw the good in them, they didn't amount to much.
You may or may not be a leader in your company or in your family. But you are a leader in the eyes of someone. So don't miss your opportunity to bring out that person's best. As sales consultant Dave Yoho says, "In every human being God has placed a special gift, a special talent that may not be seen. Our job as leaders is to find that gift and help that person develop it."
Final Thought: Your attitude towards another person may be the first step in releasing that person's greatness.