Results by John Austin, PhD

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Are You Curious?

Are you curious?

Have you ever been frustrated by someone else at work? How about at home?

…the person who comes to your meeting late and unprepared,
…the supervisor who always cancels your 1 to 1 meeting at the last minute,
…the person who is a bottleneck for your work,
…the department who requires a report from you but never reads it or responds to it,
…The person who says something rude and hangs up the phone on you,
…or even the person sitting at a red light who fails to notice the light turning green

If so, congratulations, you are human. It is often helpful to understand the source of
these frustrations because often it is you!

As leaders who are concerned with bringing the best out of the people who work with us, the problem is not that we are quick to judge as most humans are. The real problem is that it drives the wrong thinking, and the wrong behavior when it
comes to leadership and management of people at work.

When we experience this frustration, we need something to help us understand why we are having this reaction.

This is such a common thing that Psychologists have a term for it. The fundamental attribution error, or FAE is the human tendency to judge the mistakes of others more harshly than we judge our own.

In other words, when someone around us makes a mistake, we have a tendency to blame the error on the person…as in, something is wrong with that person. Whereas when we make a mistake or error ourselves, we say it was caused by the situation or environment we were in.

The coworker who shows up late to an important meeting is quickly labelled “slacker”, whereas if we are late to an important meeting, we know it is because the train came and blocked the road for 10 minutes and we were already running late because the dog had to be walked one more time this morning. We are certainly NOT a slacker like that other person, of course not.

A behavioral solution to this problem is for you to do something different. One way to do this is to use the first sign of your frustration to trigger a new behavior…curiosity.

Getting curious and asking a few questions can teach you something invaluable about that other person, and that is the first step to getting a new result.

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