We often fall into the trap of making up stories to explain other people’s poor behavior. Here is a small sampling:
- “He didn’t return my email because he thinks I am a pest.”
- “They are really very political. They will stab you in the back as soon as you turn around.”
- “She can’t handle the demands of this office and her home life. That’s why she’s struggling.”
- “My boss doesn’t let me speak up in meetings because she wants to take all the credit for the ideas.”
- “He’s that way because he is not a people person.”
- “That guy gets exactly nothing done week-to-week. He’s lazy and is just waiting for a package.”
- “He’s gunning for her job. That’s why he’s making all this noise now in these meetings.”
These stories do us harm because they are false. We simply have no way of knowing the inner life, thoughts, and dreams of any of the rest of us. Our made-up stories likely will cause friction and missed opportunities as we judge, misunderstand, and underestimate each other. Heck, sometimes even calling their behavior “poor” can get in the way.
If we really need to know what’s driving another’s behavior, let’s ask them. Otherwise, let’s be wary of these stories. Address the behavior and avoid the stories.
In your corner,