This skill on focusing on behavior is easy to understand but more difficult to use. That’s because we tend to focus on other people’s attitudes or personalities when we interact with them. We are continually making judgments about other people’s attitudes, personalities, and motivations. This person is friendly; that one is hostile; this one is ambitious; that one is lazy; this one is attractive; that one is unappealing; this one is aggressive; that one is timid; this one likes me; that one doesn’t.
When we do this, we usually base these judgments on the behavior of other people. Someone acts in a certain way, says certain things or fails to do or say certain things. On the basis of behavior that we can clearly observe, we make judgements about what is going on in people’s minds, which we cannot read.
It is important to learn to distinguish between objectively, (uninfluenced by our emotions or personal prejudices) which is clear and verifiable and what we know.
It’s simple to assume that we can identify an individual’s attitudes by his/her behavior. We know from our own experiences that there are often substantial differences between our attitude toward someone or something and our behavior. We may not like a co-worker, but we may, in the interest of maintaining harmony, behave in ways that hide our true feelings. If that co-worker happens to be the leader, we may behave in ways that will save our jobs. There are discrepancies between our attitudes and our behavior.
There is nothing unusual about this phenomenon. Therefore, we have a fairly good notion about what someone else can or cannot know about our inner feelings and attitudes.
It’s important to distinguish between behavior and attitude in dealing with our staff because our inferences can be, and often are, wrong. If we express them to a staff member and our inferences carry any negative connotations, we undermine that other staff member’s self esteem and it will damage our relationship with him/her. By focusing on behavior, on what can be seen and described objectively, we can deal with staff members on the basis of facts rather than opinions.