The Importance of a Positive Attitude

Dr. Natalie Gelman

The Importance of a Positive Attitude

What's on Your Mind?

A question was asked by a person who wanted to change a person’s way of looking at the world. She said that this individual tends to be critical, rejecting and unhappy. I address this concern regularly in my office. 

We often have a tendency to focus on the less-than-ideal things in our lives. We are more inclined to criticize someone than compliment them. 

I had an experience that highlighted this to me. I had problems with our phone, television and Internet service. They all stopped working and it continued for four days. I was on the phone with innumerable people from the company. One person was very helpful and honest. She was a contrast to the people I talked to. When everything was resolved, because of her intervention, I called the company and asked to speak to someone to praise one of their workers. I was transferred to customer service. I expressed my interest and was told they only take complaints, not compliments. I pursued this and I was never able to achieve my goal. I wrote a letter to the national office citing my dismay. 

It is a statement of what commonly happens; people express their dissatisfaction, but not their satisfaction. 

I went to Detroit recently to visit my 100-year-old former mother-in-law Florence. I have continued to keep in contact with her for years. I told her I would be at the facility where she lives between noon and 1 p.m. I got there at 12:50 p.m. and she was sitting in her wheelchair in the front doorway. I asked her how long she had been there. She told me she enjoys sitting by the fresh air. I asked her if she wanted me to take her for a walk. She liked that idea. I asked her if she had eaten lunch, and she said, “I have not. I am not hungry.” I told her I would take her for a walk after she ate lunch, and she laughed. 

I took her to the dining room and all the tables were occupied. We went to a table where one woman was sitting. As I sat down, the woman, who did not know Florence, began to cite all of her complaints about the facility: she hates the workers and the food. Her doctor and family have encouraged her to get full-time help and move home. 

Florence is hard of hearing, so I repeated everything to her. Finally, the woman paused and Florence said, “Are you aware of the fact that we came and sat with you?” The woman nodded. Florence continued, “We have listened to you and you have been able to express your unhappiness without being interrupted. I suggest you consider this to be a positive experience as we, hopefully, have given you a chance to ventilate without being judged. You might try seeing things in a positive category and you might feel better.”

A change in attitude. Florence knows. 



Dr. Natalie Gelman is an Alameda-based therapist. Submit questions to or through her website,