It seems like in daily life we are pretty hard on others. Whether its getting upset while driving, shopping, at work, or in our close personal relationships. But why is this so? I believe that a lot of it has to do with the Fundamental Attribution Error. The Fundamental Attribution Error is defined as “the tendency people have to focus on personal causes of other peoples behavior and to down play the influence of situational causes”. Another way to look at it as people believe it is the persons personality which is guiding behavior rather than the situation they are in. The real interesting thing about this concept is that it does not seem to apply to ourselves. We seem to always take into consideration situational or external causes for our own behavior but not others. We seem to feel that we have good reasons for the behavior that we exhibit. But not so with others most of the time we are ready to burn them at the stake for making a mistake. But when we ourselves make the same mistake it is easy to see why people should not be so harsh with us seeing it as not a big deal. This is a very important factor because it directs how we behave with each other, which I believe is the biggest part of all our lives. It is impossible to say that we can just stop interacting with each other. I can think of a situation at work where a co-worker was consistently late, didn’t seem to want to work as part of the team, and did not seem very motivated. I exhibited the FAE in this situation and related it all to her being lazy, believing she felt as if she was better than the rest of us, and just couldn’t get up early enough to be on time. Because of the error myself and other co-workers overtime just made her an outcast from the rest of the team until she was let go for continuing to be tardy. Afterwards I talked with her an found out the back story and realized her a lot of her behavior was guided by an external bad situation she was in. How much her personality had to do with getting into the situation is another discussion. What I learned was that what she needed was support and help from others not turned away. Because of FAE none of us were able to be either of those things to her. It was an important lesson to me that someway I had to change my thinking to try to not continue to fall back into the error in the future. This is what I have tried to do using the 5 step intervention process for myself. The problem was that falling into FAE had an effect on people that I interact with. The solution was that I had to become more aware of my thought process to not to continue or to fall into FAE as much. I decided that I would take some time each evening to reflect on my day and interactions I had. I would try to look at where I maybe had treated people wrong maybe not to their face even but a negative perception. If I had the next time I had the interaction with them I would apologize if needed and change my thinking of their behavior. The short term goal turned out to be that I became more aware of my thinking, actions, and perceptions. The long term turned out to be treating others better and not reacting to others behaviors impulsively and also become less stressed not putting so much into others behavior. Although it is not too scientific it has helped me improve. I believe it is important that we all try to be a little more considerate of others everyday but especially during the holidays. The explanation of others behavior may be different than we perceive and if not at least being considerate can give us a little more piece of mind personally.
Scherman Phd., M. (2014). Why we Dont Give Each Other A Break. Real Men Dont Write Blogs. Retrieved November 28, 2014, from http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/real-men-dont-write-blogs/201406/why-we-dont-give-each-other-break
Schneider, F. (2012). Applied social psychology: Understanding and addressing social and practical problems. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: SAGE Publications