People Assume It’s You, Not The Situation

The ‘fundamental attribution error‘ is a psychology term used to describe how we often make mistakes in interpreting why people have done something.

‘People have a tendency to give personality based explanations for other peoples behavior more weight than situational factors. ….(But) people tend to explain their OWN behavior to situational factors more than personality factors.’

An example of this is, if I see you respond angrily to a difficult customer I am likely to conclude that you are impatient or unskilled in customer relations but if I snap at a customer I know that it is because I am sleep-deprived because my child has been unwell and frustrated because this is the fifth time I have dealt with unreasonable complaints from this particular customer.

Susan Weinschenk says that knowing about the fundamental attribution error doesn’t seem to stop us from continuing to make it. Which is sort of reassuring to me because I repeatedly notice myself doing it!  She suggests we:

‘try and build in ways to cross-check your own biases. If your work requires you to make a lot of decisions about why people are doing what they are doing, you might want to stop before acting on your decisions and ask yourself, “Am I making a Fundamental Attribution Error?”

My approach is to build some flexibility into my interpretation of the event by brainstorming as many different explanations as I can for why the person might act that way.

One thought on “People Assume It’s You, Not The Situation

  1. This may seem like a no brainier, but many people fail to do
    this and just buy an item on the first site they see. The online coupons have made the
    shopping much more thrilling and joyful. New York & Company has released their 2012 Black Friday ad and it may not be one of the longest, but it has some of the biggest announcements.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s