Business Communication: 5 Common Misconceptions about Other People

Service Business

The human brain is not perfect and it often deceives the unaware man, eg by taking shortcuts in the process of reasoning and judging. In this way, various types of cognitive bias arise, affecting how we perceive the world around us. A number of this type of error concerns the interpersonal sphere - then it is said about errors in the perception of other people (the so-called social perception). They can lead to serious consequences in the form of conflicts, misunderstandings, as well as rejection of the offer of a reliable contractor or exclusion of a good candidate during an interview. How can you avoid this? Can the mistakes be exploited somehow? The first step towards eliminating these types of mistakes is to become aware of what mistakes we make in perceiving others.

How do you drive ... sheep, that is the basic attribution error

The first popular error in social perception is the so-called basic attribution error. It consists in a common tendency to explain the behavior of the observed people in terms of internal and permanent causes, such as character traits, while underestimating situational or external influences.

To better illustrate what this mistake in assessing others is, let's use an example from the field in which the basic error of attribution is daily bread (at least in Poland). Imagine you are driving your car and you come to a peer intersection. You want to go straight, check that there is no one on the right, and then you steadily move in the direction you want. At the last moment, you spot a car on the left that has not respected the rules of this type of intersection - and you hit the brake sharply. The perpetrator of the commotion runs in front of your car's hood, drives away as if nothing had happened, and disappears around the bend.

A very popular reaction in this case is to weave a large number of "Latin" macaroons into statements in the style of the subtitle. The driver of this car becomes a "ram" for us, therefore we see the reasons for his behavior in the fact that he cannot drive, that he is "blind", we question the legitimacy of granting him a driving license, etc. We do not take into account the fact that he cannot drive. that he comes from the other end of Poland (as evidenced by license plates), does not know the topography of the city and is going to an interview, which is why he is very stressed. Therefore, his behavior does not result from a lack of skills (he can be an excellent driver) and permanent personal qualities, but from situational factors that we - sitting (also stressed) in our car - do not take into account.

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Where is it coming from? The causes of the basic attribution error are sought precisely in the automatic processing of information, in which our consciousness does not participate. Moreover, when we observe a person, we only see their behavior - it is difficult for us to determine what situation they may be in. It would take us more time to think carefully about the reasons for this, which we often cannot afford.

When can we encounter a fundamental attribution error in business? A perfect example is an interview, where the entrepreneur evaluates the candidate. His (the candidate's) excessive nervousness may be attributed to a trait, which is low resistance to stress (which excludes him as a good employee in a given company). The way a candidate is viewed would change completely if the recruiter knew that just before entering the interview, the applicant received a call from his wife who had just begun giving birth. The assessment would have been different if the entrepreneur had found out that the pregnancy was at risk, and labor had started well ahead of schedule. Knowing about this would allow us to look more gently at the candidate's nervousness and explain his behavior in the context of the situation in which he found himself.

Nice ones have better, i.e. the halo (halo) effect and the devilish halo effect

Another misperception of others is related to the first impression. It turns out that we tend to extend one positive trait perceived in a person to another, thereby increasing the overall assessment of the person. Moreover, this translates into attributing positive qualities to such a person that we have not actually noticed. This is called the halo effect (or halo effect) and is a variation of the basic attribution error discussed earlier.

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The features that we notice at first glance and that may have consequences in the form of the halo effect are:

  • wisdom,
  • kindness,
  • physical attractiveness,
  • neatness.

As you can see, the halo effect can be used to explain the results of research showing that physically attractive people meet with greater sympathy, it is easier to achieve what they want - from kindergarten! It is much easier for them to make a good first impression, and therefore they are attributed many more positive qualities at the outset.

It should be emphasized, however, that the subjective values ​​of the observer are of great importance for the halo effect. For example, if punctuality is very important to me, then the person who shows up on time to the meeting will be perceived by me as intelligent, honest, well-mannered, and worthy of trust.

How can the halo effect show up in business? Entrepreneurs, who have to enter into negotiations frequently, are particularly exposed to it. It can be manipulated very easily - the discussion partner is able to consciously bring about the desired effect in us and thus achieve the goal he has set (not necessarily beneficial for us). When recruiting, as in the case of the basic attribution error, also in the case of the halo effect, you need to be careful and honestly answer the question whether a given person has actually demonstrated all the attributes assigned to them?

What's more, the halo effect can also be used in business, e.g. in advertising and marketing - by using appropriately selected photos on our website. A handsome businessman in a suit will suggest that our services are truly professional.

The halo effect also has a devilish twist - one negative trait can make the overall assessment of a person negative (because we assign a number of negative traits to them that we won't actually notice). Let us return to the example of punctuality - if a second person arrives at the same meeting with a considerable delay, we will assign them such features as laziness, disorganization, stupidity, irresponsibility. That is why it is so important in contacts with contractors and customers - at least at the beginning - to take care of your good image and avoid mistakes that could cause the devilish halo effect.

How to make them remember - that is, the effect of freshness and the priority effect

The next two mistakes that we make in perceiving other people are the so-called freshness effect and priority effect. The first is that we better remember the information that comes to us at the end, while the second is based on the information received at the beginning. Therefore, it should be concluded that both the beginning and the end of the meeting are very important for contact with a given person. It is worth remembering about this when preparing for an important business meeting - a good impression at the beginning plus an eloquent ending can leave our contractors with positive feelings for a long time.

These effects can also be used in the company's advertising, remembering to provide the most important information at the beginning and at the end of the message.Negotiations are another area of ​​activity that can benefit from the proper use of freshness and priority effects - the weakest points of our offer should be included in the middle of the message, in line with the sandwich principle: a big positive (as the first slice of bread), shortcomings (as a filling) and another big positive (as a second slice of bread).

It is also worth mentioning here what influences which effect is more likely to occur in a particular situation. According to the American psychologist E. Aronson, when the priority effect or the freshness effect occurs, the decisive factor is the time that separates the events taking place in a specific situation, and more precisely:

  • time between the first and second messages,
  • time between the end of the second message and the point where recipients have to make their final decision.

The precedence effect will occur when the time difference between the two messages is very small. The freshness effect, on the other hand, will work if people have to make a decision immediately after hearing the second message. How to use it in business meetings? It depends. If the presentations of several companies take place on one day, then it is worth trying to speak first. Great fatigue of a potential contractor will make the priority effect work and our presentation will be well received and remembered. However, if the presentations last a few days, then it is good to be the last - because this is where the freshness effect will work.

These are just examples of perception errors that can make a big difference to your company's fortunes. It is worth remembering about them - both so as not to be manipulated and to use them properly.