Thoughts From Our Heads

Thoughts From Our Heads


Fundamental Attribution Error

Tuesday 13th August 2019

Have you fallen victim to the fundamental attribution error? I am pretty sure you will have done, probably repeatedly! The fundamental attribution error is where we attribute blame and judgement towards others behaviours, where we would excuse ourselves of the same behaviour. An easy example we can all relate to is when we are driving and some IDIOT cuts in front of us! They are obviously lacking a few brain cells or totally ignorant. If, however, we happen to do the same thing, we are not stupid or ignorant, but we have a valid reason for our poor driving skills, we are maybe distracted, or running really late or didn't see the other car. We excuse our own poor behaviour but are quick to blame others for their poor behaviour. 

This happens in the workplace all the time and can damage relationships and impede performance. We get annoyed when people don't reply to our emails and assume they are rude; we think the person who hasn't prepared for the meeting is not serious about their work and when that person stumbles and doesn't know what to say, we doubt their competence. In some cases, our assumptions may be correct, but even if they are, our negativity and blame will only add fuel to the fire and not help the person move forward.  


In all of these cases and more, we should adopt the standard position of positive intent. Positive intent means that we always assume the best case scenario, not the worst. We give people the benefit of the doubt and treat them with respect. This doesn't mean we ignore negative behaviours, but when we spot them we approach the situation with curiosity rather than critique. Critique evokes defense and won't help move the situation forward, curiosity suggests interest and a desire to help.



The challenge is controlling our own emotional responses in these situations. The next time you find yourself thinking negatively about someone, stop, question your thoughts, ask yourself what could be the reasonable explanation for the behaviour and move forward with that positive assumption in mind. Assuming positivity is always the best response as it helps us manage our own emotions and build bridges with others rather than driving wedges between us. It starts a positive cycle of interacts rather than a negative one.