Behavior is a function of 2 things – a characteristic of the person interacting with a characteristic of the situation.
This is a simple yet powerful definition as it helps us understand why different people react to the same situation differently. And, most importantly, it explains why the same person might react to the an identical situation differently on different days. It all depends on which characteristics are interacting at which time.
Seth had a fantastic post on “Reading between the lines” the other day when he cautioned against analyzing rejection too much. His conclusion was –
If you really want to know why someone didn’t like your work, you’re going to have to put a lot more effort into it understanding the person who rejected you. Reading the tea leaves in the rejection letters and one-star reviews is pretty worthless.
I was part of a team that ran an event for a diverse group of 600 people last year. And, while we had many positive reviews, a bunch of indifferent reviews, we also had a few one star reviews. In one of these cases, one of the one star reviewers took it out on one of our team members about how she hated us for it. And, as discussed it the next day, we came to the same conclusion – when you get such a strong reaction, this isn’t so much about the situation itself, but the person. It is similar to the idea – “If you are angry or bored, it is really your problem.”
This is not an easy lesson to learn though. This is because there are very few people (~5%) who “build.” Most of the others spend most of their time either maintaining or criticizing. So, the small proportion of builders get a disproportionate share of the negative feedback since the critics tend to react negatively to change. But, Seth’s post is a great reminder that we ought to read into the constructive stuff and ignore the rest.
And, in this case, perhaps revisit this definition of behavior and remember that behavior is caused by an interaction of 2 things – so, it is not all about you.