Fundamental Attribution Error - Deepstash

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How to Not Attribute to Malice Things Adequately Explained by Stupidity

Fundamental Attribution Error

Fundamental Attribution Error is when we pay too much attention to the personality of a person and ignore the content.

We need to shift the focus away from ‘who did/said that?’ and look at other causes/reasons.

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Defining difficult people
Defining difficult people

We are social creatures who desire validation. We feel good when others share our belief system. But we feel dejected when others do not value our inputs, crush our ideas, or ignore what we have to say.

These difficult people act in undesirable ways and give us permission to pass judgement and offload responsibility by blaming them for undesirable outcomes.

Influences that define difficult people

We view the world and the people in it from a specific paradigm.

How we relate to someone is driven by our personality, expectations, background, and experience. Why we find someone difficult is then a very personal affair.

The TRICK framework that drives us
  • T - Tagging. We are quick to label others as needy, manipulative, fake, arrogant, but explain away our own selfish acts and believe we are better than others.
  • R - Righteous. When we find someone difficult, we start believing in the righteousness of how we feel, what we want, and why the other person deserves to be treated in a certain way. We reject them as a person, as well as their ideas.
  • I - Intention. Once we know we are right, it's easy to assume they act out of bad intent.
  • C - Confirmation. Once we think someone is difficult, every interaction serves as a validation of our beliefs. We will reject the evidence that contradicts our beliefs and seek information that strengthens our views.
  • K - Keenness to fix others. Without changing our own behavior, we assume the other person is at fault and then desire to fix them.
A Meeting With Conflict

When polarizing topics are discussed in meetings, it can turn into a fight. In these conflicts, where passions run high, people tend to confuse correlation with causation while determining the reason for the problem, or can have hindsight bias. They can also create evidence out of nothing or assume a maliciousness intent from the decision-makers.

Mental models are tools that can help us navigate through such challenging or confusing situations.

Hanlon's Razor

This mental model states that most actions made by people need not be categorized as malicious or intentionally bad, but simply a sign of incompetence and acting out of fear.

Many poor decisions and actions are not intentional but due to ineptitude. By following this mental model, we untie ourselves from unnecessary negativity and work towards a solution.

Relativity

The mental model of relativity states that everyone's outlook, viewpoint and perspective are different from ours.

The same situation is looked in different ways by people, and understanding these variations can help us toward a meaningful dialogue with them. We can diffuse any inherent conflict by hearing out and identifying what we understand, making the other person feel listened to.

Building Rapport Remotely

To better build rapport and counter isolation do the following:

  • smile, tilt your chin lower so you're not looking down on them, and slow down your speech during your video calls, so you come across as being more credible.
  • set a finish time before starting a conversation with someone new to reduce the initial wariness.
  • Be more likable and validate others by listening to them and suspending your ego. Put aside your wish to contribute to the conversation and ask short, open questions like how, when, and why.
Relying On Text The Right Way

Voice and video calls can help you feel more in touch with your team and avoid the issues of asynchronous communication like time lags or misunderstandings.

However, you'll likely spend a lot of your day communicating via text as it’s a good way to interact without interrupting their work. So you need to be able to get your point across clearly and simply, show empathy and understanding, and be efficient to avoid wasted time.

Staying Up To Date

Remote workers can feel overwhelmed by the amount of text they have to process. So finding ways to keep on top of what's going on is imperative for communicating efficiently with others.

Create archive lists and CC irrelevant emails to them, so you can save and share them without flooding non-involved people.