Your attitude speaks volumes before you utter a word. Like your shadow, you often are unaware of it. Your attitude permeates everything about you: the way you think, the tone of your voice, what words you choose, and even how you move your body – your body language. While you may think that your thoughts and feelings are purely private, your body is mirroring and in fact is speaking your mind. What you are thinking and feeling gets translated into your body language, and is very much like those electronic signs with a message that flashes, this time across your forehead. Your body language actually has a larger impact on others than the words you speak. Put it all together and you’ll find your attitude sets the tone for how people respond to you. Everyone has experienced the vibes that come off a person. You take one look and you know whether to approach or stay away.
Barsade and Gibson consider three different types of feelings that impact your attitude, in a paper published April 18, 2007, in Knowledge@Wharton: Discrete, short-lived emotions, such as joy, anger, fear, and disgust. Moods, which are longer-lasting feelings and not necessarily tied to a particular cause. A person is in a cheerful mood, for instance, or feeling down. Dispositional, or personality, traits, which define a person's overall approach to life. "She's always so cheerful," or "He's always looking at the negative.“
All three types of feelings can be contagious, and emotions don't have to be grand and obvious to have an impact. Subtle displays of emotion, such as a quick frown, can have an effect as well, Barsade says. She offers this example: "Say your boss is generally in very good humor, but you see him one day at a meeting and his eyes flash at you. Even if they don't glare at you for the rest of the meeting, his eyes have enunciated some valuable information that is going to have you concerned and worried and off center for the rest of the meeting.“
Your attitude is born out of a set of conclusions and decisions you have made about a particular person, situation, or your life. Attitudes typically have a feeling tone to them that is often felt by holder of the attitude and others around them. Internally your attitude set the climate for your thinking and responding to a situation or person. Humans like to be “right” about their thoughts and conclusions. If you have a hostile attitude you will experience hostile events in your life and approach people in a hostile way. When you are in a negative frame of mind you are sending negative signals to others and they will respond to your hostile signals in a negative way. Their response will reinforce your conclusion that the world is a negative place. If you have a cheerful attitude, likewise, you will experience events in your life in a way to support your positive conclusions. Your attitude usually resides in your blind spot because most of the time you are focused on your thoughts, not the attitude they are coming from.