The Nature of Attitude – 3 Types of People

Many of our articles deal with optimizing individual performance. The fundamental factor — underlying the successful application of all other performance factors — is attitude.

Unfortunately, too often attitude is dismissed as something we’re cursed (or blessed) with and unable to change … or just too intangible to deal with objectively in the workplace.

All of these attitudes about attitude are incorrect and counter-productive! A person’s attitude (both fundamental view of life and specific views of various life challenges) is reflected in objective behavior and can be changed. Not manipulated by outside forces, but transformed by the individual.

What Is Attitude?

Attitude is the underlying way we think, feel and act — how we react to the world around us. It determines the quality and effectiveness of all of our thinking, emotions and behavior … and, thereby, the positive or negative consequences of that behavior.

Attitude is the one thing we can count on as a lifetime companion. Jobs and relationships come and go, but your attitude is always with you. You can’t take a from yourself!

Attitude is based upon our expectations and perceptions — our definition of reality.

3 Types of People — 3 Different Attitudes

Each of the following has the same job, but notice their attitudes:

Susan Spectator likes the predictability and limited responsibility of her job. She feels most comfortable when others make the important decisions. She feels threatened when anything out of the norm happens and calls her manager for instructions. She never feels certain about anything and has difficulty making commitments.

Carl Critic feels frustrated in his job, but at least it gives him a chance to complain and to vent his frustrations on all the “idiots” he deals with. When confronted with his mistakes, he looks for excuses and others to blame. He hates what he regards as impositions placed on him by coworkers and customers. His negative opinions are known by all.

Paula Player views her job as an opportunity to experience the thrill of competence and meeting progressive challenges. She enjoys interacting with her coworkers, customers and management. When she makes a mistake, she acknowledges it to herself and to those impacted by it … and then looks to see how she can correct it and learn from it.

Susan Spectator, Carl Critic and Paula Player exemplify three very different ways of approaching life and relating to others — three different attitudes:

  1. Spectators with Neutral Attitudes
  2. Spectators watch life happen and observe others. They play it safe and try to avoid risks. Spectators are afraid of change. They often are tired or detached. Their defining word is: Maybe. Their prevailing action: Coast… Typical phrases: I doubt it, I might, I don’t know and I’m hesitant.

  3. Critics with Negative Attitudes
  4. Critics comment on life and complain. They critique after the fact, imposing their “expertise” and finding fault in others. Critics are annoyed about change. They often appear frustrated or pessimistic. Their defining word is: No! Their prevailing action: Stop! Typical phrases: I can’t, I won’t, No way and You made me.

  5. Players with Positive Attitudes
  6. Players actively participate in life and embrace opportunities. They take risks and are willing to make mistakes. Players enjoy learning and change. They usually are confident and optimistic. Their defining word is: Yes! Their prevailing action: Go! Typical phrases: I can, I will, I’m sure and I choose to.

Adapted from: Attitude: The Choice is Yours by Michele Matt, American Media, 1996.

Most of us have some of each type and attitude in us. Often, though, one general attitude predominates.


  1. Recall a challenge you faced in your interactions with others (whether on your current job, in a previous job or in your personal life).
  2. Describe the situation, the other people involved, what was challenging about it, and how you handled it.

    • What were your actions? Your thoughts? Your feelings?
    • What statements did you use? In what tone of voice?
    • What was your body language? Your facial expression?
  3. Now step back and look at what you’ve written. Were you a Spectator, Critic or Player (or some combination)?
  4. How could you face and handle a similar challenge in the future?

[Our other articles on this subject address why attitude is important and how to transform it.]

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