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:
- You’re not the only one; this is what most people do;
- 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.