Your attitude is your choice. Find out how one person’s bad mood affected others throughout the day.

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Have you ever stopped to consider the amount of influence you have on other people as you go about your normal day? It was something I hadn’t really thought about, until one day in particular.

It started out as any other workday, but on this day, things took an unexpected turn – all because of a colleague’s bad mood.

Our flight from Seattle to the East Coast was cancelled due to mechanical issues and as I watched the airline employees helping the long (and getting longer) line of customers, I could see my co-worker getting angrier and angrier at the delay. By the time he got to the counter he looked ready to explode.

I watched in horror as he took out his frustration on the airline employee. After my colleague stomped off, all I could say to her was how sorry I was, and that I knew the flight cancellation wasn’t her fault. When she looked back at me through teary eyes, I told her how much I appreciated her help getting me rebooked onto another flight that morning and gave her my biggest smile.

My co-worker’s bad mood continued. He was grumpy to the flight attendants, curt with the taxi driver and short-tempered with everyone when we finally arrived at the meeting. I had hoped we could accomplish a lot, but his bad mood made every discussion difficult. During dinner with the group, he sent his steak back to the kitchen … twice. By the time the dessert menus were handed out, everyone else quickly excused themselves, most likely to get away from him.

I stayed for coffee and dessert, which gave us an opportunity to talk. When I asked what was going on and mentioned that his bad mood throughout the day didn’t seem in character for him, he shared a difficult personal situation he was going through. The cancelled flight that morning had been the “straw that broke the camel’s back,” as the old saying goes.

At the end of dessert, I gently shared the long list of casualties from his bad mood. He stared into his coffee cup and then chewed on his lip. The next day, he apologized to the meeting attendees. When he saw one of the previous flight attendants on our trip back to Seattle, he also apologized to her. He took the brave step of taking ownership for his bad mood and for the negative effect his mood had on others.

Tips to think about:

  • Your attitude is your choice.
  • Your mood and actions impact others, not just yourself.
  • If you choose to have a positive attitude, negative situations will have less impact and you will attract more happiness into your life.
  • Whenever someone is negative or angry, don’t match his or her mood. Realize that there might be underlying reasons for their behavior, and use compassion during your communication.

Lisa Quast is a certified executive coach, and the author of the book Secrets of a Hiring Manager Turned Career Coach. Email her at lquast@careerwomaninc.com.