My little boy was very grumpy when he got up this morning. It was almost like he had got out of bed on the wrong side. Anything we suggested – no, it was wrong. My husband says he knows where he gets it from… hmmm.

I know I am not exactly a saint when it comes to my reactions to other people. I think it depends what Mother and baby grizzly bear in the woods.  Ripples on a pondhat I have on, and, unfortunately, my “mum” hat isn’t quite as polite or patient as some of the other hats I wear. If I really put my mind to it, I can maintain a façade of patience for quite some time, but if one of my children is grumpy or unreasonable, well, I find it hard to come back from it.

I hope that most of us have families that love us enough to make allowances for the times that we fall short of being nice. We all have bad days, and the understanding of those around us goes a long way to smoothing things over.


What I do find challenging is when people don’t make the effort to be pleasant as part of their jobs. I am sure we can all think of someone like this. It may be the receptionist at our doctor’s surgery, or someone serving us in a shop. They don’t take the time to smile or say thank you. Sometimes they barely even acknowledge your existence. I have found myself being bothered enough by this to try and make a change.

What I have come to realise is that the way we deal with other people’s reactions is imDuck on a pond, leaving ripples in its wake.  Ripples on a pondportant. If we allow ourselves to take on their mood and behave in a similar manner, we are then having an effect on other people around us, like ripples on a pond. It can be all too easy to respond to the next person we see in the way we have been dealt with. The problem with this is that they, too, may take on our bad mood and it is like a virus – it spreads like wildfire. Soon everyone on the planet may catch it!

We are all connected

Yes, I know that is unlikely to happen. Hopefully we will just bump into someone else who cheers us up, or lets us have a moan about our experience, and we go on as before. I wonder, however, how many people we may have upset on the way? And what about the people who have no-one to grumble to? What about someone who lives alone, whose only interaction that day may be with us?

I wonder, then, if we might help to change the attitudes to others. Take the person working in the shop who looks so cross. A smile, a warm “thanks for your time”, or even asking them a question about their day, could it help? I know, the reaction might be even worse than it was the first time. But could you brace yourself, being prepared for the potential negativity, and give them a chance for a happier day?

My reaction filter

When I think I have had a good idea, I like to act on it quickly so that it doesn’t lose momentum. I ring or email one of the people that I work with, and hope that they will like it too, and that we can move forward with it. With a couple of them, no matter how good the ideaTop of waterfall with bright blue sky behind.  Ripples on a pond is, the reaction is always “No – it can’t be done”. Or, “We haven’t got the resources to manage that.” Or, “You are sending me to an early grave.” Hmmm again.

If I share the same idea with someone with a more positive outlook, (or perhaps with someone who won’t be helping me with the donkey work!), the reception is completely different.

What I have come to realise is that I need to set up a “reaction filter”. If I open up an email from a pessimistic colleague, I need to be prepared for the backlash. It does not mean that my idea won’t ever happen, just that I have a heck of a lot more groundwork to do before it does.

The challenge

I have a challenge for you. Try using a reaction filter in your dealings with those who seem less than happy. Right – steel yourself – aim for a more positive reaction. Could you give this a go?

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Photo by Ryan McGuire


  1. I try to tell our children that if someone is nasty to them at school try to smile or laugh rather than be nasty back. Then, in most cases, they will probably stop because they don’t get a reaction. (Obviously doesn’t work every time).

    1. I think that is a great suggestion, Andrew! I am sure you are right, that it won’t work in every situation, but teaching them to have a response that might get a positive reaction rather than one that will most likely cause more friction can only be a good thing.

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