by Ashley Davis-Annett
“Leadership is Emotional” -Unknown
Attribution theory is simply this: as human beings we tend to falsely attribute negative behaviors of others towards their character. Meanwhile, human beings will attribute their own negative behaviors to their environment they are in. Why does this happen? Well, because we often like to believe that we do bad things because of the situations we are in, but somehow we just as easily believe that other people do bad things because they are bad people (Lencioni, 2005). The theory was developed by a gentleman named Fritz Heider as a way to explain how a person comes to understand events in their life and how those events are related to the person’s thinking process and/or their behavior.
Let me describe a situation that you might be familiar with to highlight Attribution theory. Picture yourself driving your car through town, on your way to run errands. You have the entire afternoon to yourself and it is a gorgeous day. On your way to the store, you happen to notice that there is a car that is quickly approaching behind you. Feeling a little sense of urgency, you look to your right to make sure the lane is clear before moving over. An elderly man, oblivious to the situation, is driving his large Buick in the lane next to you. By now the fast car is right behind you and you notice that the light up ahead is about to turn red. The elderly man in the Buick is abreast of you and you need to decide to either speed up and go in front of him or if you have the time and space to move in behind him. Feeling anxious, angry and upset you think to yourself “what on earth is wrong with this person!?”. All of a sudden, you notice that the fast car has veered into the right lane behind the Buick and is now tailing him. You decide to slow down and make space up ahead, allowing the fast car to quickly jut out in front of you and speed up towards the changing light. Just as the light is going from yellow to red, the fast car pulls hard towards the left and makes their way through the entry into the EMERGENCY of the hospital.
What we tell ourselves, in our minds about other people, regarding how they act or making assumptions about their intentions forms our understanding and our beliefs. What we attribute regarding ourselves and other people is what formulates our truth which often influences how we behave or make decisions. “Emotional Intelligence is a way of recognizing, understanding, and choosing how we think, feel, and act. It shapes our interactions with others and our understanding of ourselves. It defines how and what we learn; it allows us to set priorities; it determines the majority of our daily actions. Research suggests it is responsible for as much as 80% of the “success” in our lives” (Freedman et al). Bringing about awareness and challenges ourselves when we notice that we are creating negative assumptions or attributing negative characteristics towards other people does not allow for the creation of constructive behaviors, leadership or cultures (Leadership WorkStyles Inventory). For every time you catch yourself negative attributing or negative assuming bad in others, force yourself to think of six positive reasons or attributes instead (the rule of 6). It is about training our brains and creating constructive stories in our minds about people who are around us. This is what will allow you to develop healthy relationships, work more effectively, and act more Humanistic-Encouraging™.