Why Attitude, Not Aptitude, Determines Your Altitude

The more I coach others and the more I grow, the more I’m convinced that attitude tramples aptitude; that in your relationships with people, in your career and in your life, the attitudes you have matter sooo much more than your skills.

A Communication Coaching Story

One of my clients realized at a certain point that when she started to get mad in a conversation with someone else (which was quite often), although she would still speak using tactful words, her voice tonality would change and make her come off as angry and bitter. Obviously, this would make a lot of these discussions go badly.

The thing is, this person had realized this aspect about six months before. Since then, she tried to consciously control her vocal tonality in conversations where in created problems, but she barely managed. Why? Because the change in her voice was automatically triggered by her getting angry, and it was very hard to fight that.

Even if she managed to control her voice for a while, as soon as she would stop paying conscious attention to it, the voice would almost instantly go to the tonality dictated by the anger she was feeling. After six months of this, my client opts for some coaching focused on addressing her anger and changing the attitudes behind her voice tonality.

Why Attitude Tramples Aptitude

For every behavior and for every way of communicating or relating with people, there are skills and also attitudes that make it possible. The skills are the automatic ways of doing things, which create results. They develop by practicing those things, in those ways. The attitudes are the beliefs we have, which generate the way we interpret things in a certain context and the way we react emotionally.

You can teach a person all the best ways to do things. You can teach a person how to communicate assertively, how to speak in public with impact, but if their attitudes in those contexts don’t back them up, they will not be able to consistently practice the behaviors necessary to develop those skills.

Your attitudes determine to a great degree what you are able to do and what you are not, what you are able to practice and what you are not. This is why for example, a lot of people go to trainings and learn all sort of cool ways of relating with other people, but they never develop cool people skills.

It’s funny that I describe what I do as developing communication skills, or improving people skills, because with most of my clients, I spend more time developing the relevant attitudes than the actual skills. I constantly find that when the right attitudes are in place, the skills will develop in a very fast and natural way.

Time to Take the Right Action

Look at the soft skills you want to develop and identify the attitudes that would support developing and maintaining them. How much time and energy do you spend working directly on your skills, and how much directly on your attitudes?

If you invest more in your skills than in your attitudes, I have some news for you:

  1. You’re not the only one; this is what most people do;
  2. Unless you naturally have the right attitudes in place (which is very, very rare), it’s a very good idea to shift gears and invest much more in developing your attitudes.

Work smart! You are wasting your resources working on your skills if the right attitudes are not there. Attitudes make the real difference between champs and chumps.

Comments

  1. I agree, no matter how you try to hide it, your attitude will show itself, in your manner or tone of voice, the words you choose or your body language. So yes, you get more return on investment if you work on attitude, because if you get that right the rest follows!
    Topi
    .-= Topi´s last blog ..Accountability =-.

  2. Excellent post, I agree 100%. Goes right along the lines of “Be careful of your thoughts, for your thoughts become your words. Be careful of your words, for your words become your actions, etc. etc.”

  3. Sometimes fake it ’till you make it works, but I think a lot of behavior, tone, vibes … etc. flow from the state you’re in. I think that’s why “congruence” is a key concept in NLP.
    .-= J.D. Meier´s last blog ..3 Ways to Get Unstuck =-.

  4. It’s all in the attitude:)
    .-= Annabel Candy, Get In the Hot Spot´s last blog ..Self Improvement For Self Employment =-.

  5. Hi Eduard,
    I think you make a great point and one that is borne out by a lot of the latest research that has been done on emotional intelligence.

    The research has found that developing your EQ (includes attitude and outlook) is between a 2 and 5 times a better predictor of success than your IQ.

    Adrian
    .-= Adrian Swinscoe´s last blog ..Customer Retention: Add value by introducing your customer to another customer =-.

    • There you go. It’s a pity that people eventually learn to focus on their EQ and their attitudes only as adults (those that really do learn), instead of early in childhood.

  6. Eduard – good post here. It is vital to think about where you are speaking from and work on being authentic. When we speak from the heart or the soul our voice changes and it is impossible to mask that. Learning to be clear on who we are is key. Nice job, sir!

    Phil
    .-= Phil – Less Ordinary Living´s last blog ..How to stop holding yourself back and make it happen =-.

  7. Hi Eduard.

    I have to side with you here. The right attitude can make the world a playground. Like in that example you provided, getting mad in a conversation not only hurts that conversation/relationship or time period, but also affects the rest of the day, as you get the feeling that you have erred. Maintaining tact and a healthy attitude with each person gives you more and more fuel as you interact. Then, producing is easy. When you feel like the world is with you, it is much more appealing to produce for it than if you feel like the world is against you.
    .-= Armen Shirvanian´s last blog ..Don’t Doubt That Your Path Has Value =-.

  8. i strongly agree with you Eduard,
    its all about dealing with the root cause instead of trying to teach someone something that would work for a short while then stop working, thanks 🙂

  9. Congratulation for this article!!! I have the same opinion, there is no way of succeding in doing somethng with positive results without having a good attitude!

  10. Hi Eduard,
    I enjoyed your post and esp. love the title. Well done. Attitude is everything — there is no way to hide. It is apropos because I just had to sever a business relationship that just wasn’t working. Skill wise, the man was a real pro and had all the right degrees etc. but we could just not click. It was an attitude of inflexibility that was the downfall. I would have been better off with a less skilled yet more ambitious and flexible partnership.

    • Hey Rob,

      I’ve worked with people like that myself, and I know it can be a real pain in the ass. I cut these kinds of business relationships short as soon as I can.

  11. Fab blog title Eduard and definitely a charged topic which not many people will get because they are often not aware of how they come across. I’ve started a new technique with people, even for my badminton training…film people, show them how they look from an outside perspective.
    .-= Amit Sodha – The Power Of Choice´s last blog ..69 Simple Tips To Increase Your Profile =-.

    • Hey Amit,

      Thanks for your thoughts. I use this filming technique in some of my trainings. I film people when they do speeches or when they have conversations, and then we look at the videos and analyze them. Most of them are usually amazed of how they actually look from the outside, versus how they though they look.

  12. Hi Eduard, nice post here. I think that culturally, there’s a lot of emphasis placed on aptitude — better skills, more seminars, conferences, degrees, practice, practice, practice. These are all helpful, of course, but we’re not only cerebral people who need food for the mind. We’re also spiritual beings who need food for our souls, our fire, our motivation and yes, our attitudes.

  13. I think so too. Most cultures put a lot of emphasis on knowledge, then skills, then attitudes. When their importance is probably the other way around.

  14. Amazing post. I have found in my personal life that when my attitude is in alignment with my joyful, positive self, amazing and highly positive experiences begin to manifest in my life at rapid speeds. I resonate well with this post. Amazing content here. 🙂

  15. Attitude, attitude, attitude…The little thing which makes a big difference. I am constantly working on mine but it is no easy task especially during high stress times…
    Eduard, I have to say, you have a great writing voice, very authentic. It makes me feel you have expertise on the topic. No compliment just the truth. thank you.

  16. Yeah completely agree.

    Attitude is everything. With my work in schools (working with around 10,000 young people every year) I see this all the time.

    Some of the brightest students in school often have really poor attitudes towards education, learning and success. In fact I find its usually the ones who have less skill but the right attitude that end up going off and achieving some amazing things.

  17. My favorite attitude when I come up to something difficult is always asking “How Can I most easily …” Seems to work wonders. That way, you always have the attitude that you can succeed.
    .-= Mathieu´s last blog ..How to Make Use of Every Self Development Resources You Have Ever Read =-.

  18. Eduard quite correct in my opinion. Our attitude speaks before we do and it seeps out from us more than any CV or skills we possess can make up for. We all are able to witness it everywhere we go yet still it hasn’t got the recognition it deserves. Our attitude to attitude needs pointing out so well done for highlighting it. You make real sense.
    .-= John Sherry´s last blog ..How to Seize the Day the Simple Way =-.

  19. Hi Eduard
    Attitude may be the most important but it’s the most difficult to change.
    I blog on Public Speaking and I find that people convince themselves that they will never overcome their fear and learn the skills needed.
    Once you can break down the attitude the progress follows.

    Aptitude is important but above all else is attitude.

    BTW – very clever post title
    .-= Keith Davis´s last blog ..Flying in formation =-.

  20. I agree. Attitude takes a lot of open-mindedness, time and consistent practice to change. But frankly, it’s the best option we have. I think no real, powerful skills change is possible without the right attitudes in place.

  21. Eduard quite correct in my opinion. Our attitude speaks before we do and it seeps out from us more than any CV or skills we possess can make up for. We all are able to witness it everywhere we go yet still it hasn’t got the recognition it deserves. Our attitude to attitude needs pointing out so well done for highlighting it. You make real sense.
    .-= John Sherry´s last blog ..How to Seize the Day the Simple Way =-.

  22. I think attitude is the surface. Beneath we have self-motivation (reason why we do certain things)

    When we know why we act (positively or negatively, bad or good, angry or happy, one way or another, for a good cause, or out of ego-centrism) we have the power which fuels out attitude, which determines our actions & results (altitude)

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  1. […] Eduard Ezeanu.  Eduard blogs at People Skills Decoded and is a communication’s coach with an attitude-based approach.  Here’s Eduard on his top 10 lessons learned in improving communication.    […]

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