Fundamental Attribution

We all naturally see the entire world from our own unique perspective.  We view the actions of others as they relate to us.  There is a phrase that has slipped into the vernacular of our culture recently that is powerful to keep in mind.  “It’s not about you.”

Psychologists often refer to the principle of fundamental attribution.  Simply stated, we assume that everything around us is caused by us, meant for us, and aimed at us.  This is, most often, not the case.  When people you confront are rude to you, cut you off in traffic, or ignore you entirely as you pass by them, itrarely, if ever, has anything to do with you. 

Recently, we produced a movie entitled The Ultimate Legacy based on my novel The Gift of a Legacy.  This is the third movie in The Ultimate Gift trilogy, and we added Raquel Welch to the list of cast members who had already been in the first two films.  Raquel Welch plays a complex character who has just learned she has a terminal disease and may only have a short time to live. 

The Ultimate Legacy was shot in a small town in Kentucky.  Our cast, crew, and the residents of that small town were all excited to get to see and meet Raquel Welch.  Several people initially thought Miss Welch was rude or standoffish until they later understood her attitude had nothing to do withthem but was simply a matter of her preparing to do her lines playing a scene in which she was just informed she was dying. 

People with disabilities or those who are members of a minority group too often attribute rude behavior or bad service to their race, color, or disability, when in reality, rude behavior and bad service have become commonplace and touch us all every day.  Our natural reaction to being confronted by these unfortunate behaviors is to treat others the way we are being treated instead of the way we would like to be treated.  How we treat others is as much a reflection of how we feel about ourselves as how we feel about those around us. 

Before you diminish yourself and hurt others around you, it’s at least worth asking a benign question.  If you’re being treated poorly, stop, take a deep breath, and inquire whether you’ve done something to elicit the otherperson’s behavior.  You will be shocked to learn that the poor behavior you thought was directed at you was caused by a myriad of factors, and “It’s not about you.”

As you go through your day today, assume the best—at least until you can confirm the worst.

Today’s the day!

Jim Stovall is the president of Narrative Television Network, as well as a published author of many books including The Ultimate Gift.  He is also a columnist and motivational speaker.  He may be reached at 5840 South Memorial Drive, Suite 312, Tulsa, OK  74145-9082; by email at; on Twitter at; or on Facebook at

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