How many times do we attribute other people’s faults to their character, but when we fail at the exact same hurdle, we attribute our failure to our circumstances? This is the fundamental attribution error.
The other day someone was driving in front of me really erratically, all over the place. I got annoyed and was on my own, and was muttering unpleasant things about them under my breath: “he’s such a … ”, and “what a …”. You fill in the blanks.
Three days later I’m driving into Guildford, running a bit late, when a white van legitimately gets in front of me on a roundabout. How annoying ?! So before it’s got any speed up I legitimately overtake, getting back in my lane before the centre bollard in the road arrives. No rules of the road broken, but admittedly maybe a little aggressive.
The van driver was irritated at my perceived aggression and flashed his lights. I continued on my merry way.
Afterwards I felt convicted. It’s ok for me to blame the van guy’s personality for his driving, but then when I might be driving imperfectly, it’s ok and I excuse myself because of my circumstances (I was in a rush). He’s a …, but it’s ok because I’m a rush.
This is not ok. It happens in so many places of our lives; on the road, at work, at home. With our Ms and 2.0s, friends and coworkers. Even the strangers in the queue in front of us.
Leadership, as we all know, is setting an example, doing the right things, even when no one else is watching, and influencing others. Be careful and look out for when you’re attributing other people’s faults to their character, but when we do it, we excuse ourselves because of our circumstances.