There is a demo I have done several times over the years to demonstrate how your attitude can affect others. It is very easy to do and always brings the same conclusion...
Here is how it works:
I call up a person to the front of the room and ask them if they will give me their first reaction to my action. After they agree, I step towards them and put my guard up in an aggressive fashion. Inevitably, they respond by putting their guard up as well.
Next, I have them put their guard down and ask them again if they will give me their first reaction to my action. After they agree, I extend my hand out in friendship. They always respond in turn.
Then, finally, I ask them to put their guard up. When it is up, I extend out my hand in friendship. They always give me a blank stare followed up with a handshake.
The point of this drill is to make everyone aware of how natural it is to react to the energy of others by mirroring their energy. When someone acts defensive towards us (guard up), it is hard not to act defensive back. Likewise, when someone is friendly towards us (hand out), it is pretty easy to return the favor. The real challenge for us lays in the third example. When you cross paths with someone who has their guard up, can you resist the instinct to respond in turn and instead, put your hand out in a gesture of friendship? It is not easy and it takes a mindful effort, but the results can be stunning.
So the next time you find yourself in a hostile environment, I challenge you to resist your first instinct, no matter how strong, and really try to bring a hand of friendship. What happens is pretty amazing.
To view the video message on this topic from Hanshi Dave Kovar this week, click here.