Different Types of Attitudes and the Impact on Behavior

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "The Laws Of Human Nature" by Robert Greene. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Are there different types of attitudes? How do these different types of attitudes affect how you see the world?

There are different types of attitudes in addition to just positive or negative. Everyone has an attitude, and it can affect your behavior.

Read more about the different types of attitudes and how they work.

People Have Different Types of Attitudes

In the previous law, we learned about the first idiosyncratic element of self-sabotaging (compulsiveness). Now, we’ll look at the second: attitude.

People think that they see the world objectively, but in fact, everyone sees a slightly different version of things, filtered by their perception, or attitude. (You can also think of attitude as your soul or life force.) Our moods vary, but in general, we all have an overarching emotion that we filter the world through. This is caused by our brains’ inherent and unconscious sensitivity to particular stimuli.

  • For example, if our overall attitude is sadness, when we see sad things, our brain fires strongly, and the strength of the firing makes us pay attention and feel sad.

Our different types of attitudes are determined by some of the same factors that set our characters: genetics and upbringing. We further hone our attitudes as we meet other people and have new experiences. When we encounter people we admire or like, they influence how we see the world. When we have a negative experience, we want to avoid the same thing happening, so we narrow our perspectives. Our attitude is constantly reformulating but we always have traces of its earliest shape.

There are two major types of attitudes. People experience moments of each, but in general, tend one way or another:

Type #1: Negative and limited. People with this attitude are scared of life so they avoid anything new because the larger their world gets, the less they can control. This attitude often develops in childhood if children don’t have support systems. 

Type #2: Positive and open. People with this attitude are less scared and therefore are open to trying new things.

Different types of attitudes affect more than just how we view the world—they affect how we interact with it. They drive many of our actions and affect our energy levels and health. Additionally, they’re self-fulfilling prophecies—when our attitude is negative, we expect bad things to happen to us, and because this makes us timid and narrow-minded, bad things do happen. 

  • For example, if you go into an interaction with someone expecting them to be rude, they pick up on your negative emotions and reflect them back at you. This confirms your belief that people are negative. 

In this law, we’ll learn how to manage toxic types and control our own nature.

Adopt a Positive Attitude

There are many kinds of attitudes, but positive attitudes are helpful for you. There are several benefits to adopting a positive attitude. If you change your attitude, you can change your circumstances. Additionally, if you become more positive and open, your health might improve because you’ll be more energetic (the mind and body are linked). Finally, having a positive attitude gives you more control over your life because it stimulates your willpower.

To make your attitude more positive, change your view of the following elements:

Element #1: The world. Imagine that you’re an explorer excited to dive into the unknown. Don’t cling to what you already know, look for new material, whether that’s in your unconsciousness, such as your dreams, or outside yourself. Don’t worry about seeming consistent—you can change your mind whenever. Or, imagine that you’re your younger self, and try to regain the curiosity you had as a child. This will make you more creative.

Element #2: Adversity. You can’t usually control what adversity is directed at you, but you can control your response. Think of all obstacles and setbacks as opportunities to learn or become stronger.

  • For example, when Malcolm Little (Malcolm X) went to prison for burglary, he used his time to read, study, and earn a degree.

Element #3: Yourself. Don’t accept the limits and criticisms others try to impose on you. Believe that you’ll do something great. 

Element #4: Health. When we have more energy—for example, we’re excited because we’ve just fallen in love—we tend to be healthier. To help yourself go beyond your self-imposed physical limits, feel excited.

Element #5: Others. Most of the time, people aren’t directing negativity at you personally. See people as neutral. Even if someone really is out to get you, feeling calm will put you in a better position to appropriately respond. 

Also, try to create the peak experiences we learned about in Law #10: People Have Conflicted Feelings, Especially About Authority Figures. These moments can create a permanent change in your attitude because they expand your world. Create these moments by:

  • Pushing yourself past your self-imposed limits or overcoming a major obstacle
  • Visiting a different culture
  • Falling in love

Extended Example of Different Types of Attitudes: Anton Chekhov

Anton Chekhov’s upbringing was fairly negative—he experienced a lot of hardship in his life and several of his family members were toxic types. However, Anton ultimately embraced a positive, open attitude by controlling his response to adversity and overcoming obstacles.

Anton’s father Pavel beat him and his siblings when they were children and forced Anton to work at the family’s grocery shop. He hated working there because it was cold, it took time away from his education, the customers were unruly, and if he ever made a mistake with money, Pavel would beat him further. Anton dealt with this by learning to laugh (sometimes mean-spiritedly) at the townspeople.

When Anton was 16, the grocery store was in serious debt and Pavel ran away to Moscow to avoid the debtor’s prison. His mother was left to deal with creditors and after being swindled, took the rest of the family except Anton, who was finishing school, to Moscow as well.

Anton was furious, bitter, and depressed. He was alone and very poor and was forced to start tutoring to feed himself. While tutoring didn’t pay well enough to even buy boots, Anton was surprised to find that he enjoyed it and that he enjoyed academia in general. He decided he wanted to go to medical school and studied hard.  

One day, as a result of his studies in philosophy and literature, he started to understand his father since he learned about different kinds of attitudes. Pavel came from a long line of serfs, had been beaten by his own father, and had never wanted to work in a grocery store. Now that Anton realized his father was mainly just helpless, he could love him. Nothing changed about Anton’s circumstances when he came to this realization—he still lived in an isolated, miserable town and was still very poor. The only thing that changed was his attitude.

Anton went on to join his family in Moscow and helped them improve their own attitudes. He eventually became a doctor and writer.

Knowing about different kinds of attitudes can help you manage people around you.

Different Types of Attitudes and the Impact on Behavior

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Like what you just read? Read the rest of the world's best book summary and analysis of Robert Greene's "The Laws Of Human Nature" at Shortform .

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  • Why it's in your nature to self-sabotage
  • How you behave differently when you're in a group
  • Why you're wired to want the wrong things in life

Carrie Cabral

Carrie has been reading and writing for as long as she can remember, and has always been open to reading anything put in front of her. She wrote her first short story at the age of six, about a lost dog who meets animal friends on his journey home. Surprisingly, it was never picked up by any major publishers, but did spark her passion for books. Carrie worked in book publishing for several years before getting an MFA in Creative Writing. She especially loves literary fiction, historical fiction, and social, cultural, and historical nonfiction that gets into the weeds of daily life.

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