For the longest time I have observed families over the festive season, trying to figure out why so many people resent spending time with family members. One thing I realised is that we tend to look at everything a family member says or does as confirmation of what we already believe about them. We not only do this with people, but also with situations and facts. It is called confirmation bias. First we believe, then we “see” (find the justification for) what we believe.
Amy Edmondson describes an extension of this phenomenon in her book Teaming. The Fundamental Attribution Error* is when we ignore the situational causes of an event and instead over-attribute it to someone’s personality or skills. So when something goes wrong we cannot see that something simply went wrong. We are blinded by our belief that someone is such a useless so-and-so or has some fatal character flaw. It is so common that Amy considers it one of the two main causes for conflict on teams.
If you recognise that there is someone in your life you might not be seeing anymore, start noticing the impact it has on your interactions. Not only that, but how does it impact the other’s behaviour?
What would be possible if you simply drop whatever fatal character flaw you currently ascribe to someone and look at them through new eyes. Every time you interact with them…
*The idea originally came from Lee Ross