The Mistake We All Make When Interpreting Other People’s Actions

Properly Interpreting People’s ActionsTell me if this sounds familiar.

You’re excited to see your guy. He walks in the door, gives you a quick peck on the cheek, and…

…hardly notices the fact that you’re absolutely beaming at the sight of him.

Immediately, you’re wondering what gives. Does he not like the new outfit? Geez, you were sure he’d be a fan. Or is he just being a jerk? I mean, how hard is it to give you an enthusiastic greeting?

But what if his lack of excitement has nothing to do with you?

I’m talking about a phenomenon called “Fundamental Attribution Error.” Fundamental Attribution Error is defined as our “tendency to give personality-based explanations for other peoples’ behavior more weight than situational factors.”

In other words, we tend to assume the way people treat us is a reflection of how they feel about us. But much of the time, that assumption is dead wrong.

In the example above, maybe your guy seems distracted because he’s distracted. After all, there’s a lot of other stuff going on in his life.

That doesn’t mean you’re not important to him. It just means you’re not always the center of his universe.

And even though that makes perfect sense, Fundamental Attribution Error is incredibly common. Practically everyone does it. Not only that, but it’s almost impossible to avoid.

So how do you deal with those moments when Fundamental Attribution Error kicks in?

You can outwit your own knee-jerk assumptions by doing just two things.

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Turns Out Mr. Right Has A Quirk

dealing with men's quirksMr. Right is hard to find. He’s not Mr. Right because he is perfect. He is Mr. Right because he is right for you. Even if he is right for you, chances are he’s going to have a few quirks that annoy you.

They seem trivial, but annoying quirks can gradually drive a wedge between two people, especially when only one person realizes it’s even a problem. Here is a simple plan for disarming the negative emotional impact of his unusual quirks, along with a warning about the meaning of certain kinds of quirks.

Which is easier, finding a new Mr. Right with no quirks, or learning how to adapt to his unusual quirks? Of course, there is a third option, which is to gently train him to change the annoying behavior.

But let’s start with the assumption that the relationship has not yet reached a point where correction and feedback of his behavior would flow smoothly. Let’s start with a potentially painless fix you can use on yourself so that you don’t find his quirks so annoying.

Very often, the annoying features of someone else’s habits annoy us precisely because we have an opposite tendency or trait. For example, some people are annoyed when a housemate does not wash the toothpaste-spit down the drain after brushing their teeth. That same person probably feels annoyed with a partner who leaves their socks on the floor in the living room instead of walking them to a laundry hamper.

If you are the person that leaves your socks laying around, you probably have less of the personality trait psychologists call “conscientiousness.” It’s not that you don’t like the look of a neat and tidy home or sink; it’s that you don’t care nearly as much as someone who is very high on the conscientious trait.

Here is a simple way you can decrease your annoyance with Mr. Right when he obliviously annoys you with some habit or behavior.

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