Your behavior impacts others even if you don’t always recognize this at first. There is a theory in behavioral science called the Law of Attribution, or the Attribution Theory. This theory states that most often when you observe others, you attribute their behavior to their character – whereas you attribute your own behavior to your circumstances. This logic applies negative assumptions as to why someone else behaves badly but cuts ourselves slack for our own poor behaviors.
An example would be encountering a sales clerk that appears to be rude and disinterested in helping you. You attribute that behavior to the nature of their character. You decide they are a mean person and shouldn’t be in a helping profession. You then, in turn, are rude to that sales clerk and feel justified, because you have determined they are “innately rude,” whereas you are just mirroring their behavior and would be kinder to them if they weren’t so awful.
We blame them for their behavior and justify our own.
In another scenario, you have just received very bad news and are so distracted, you forget an important meeting and leave someone high and dry who was waiting for you. Without apology, you move on to the rest of your day knowing that the news you received was shocking and terrible, and your actions weren’t purposefully irresponsible; they were just due to your circumstances. Later that week, someone drops the ball and forgets to do something vital for a work project, causing the team to be late for a deadline. Incensed, you shoot off a heated email casting blame, believing your coworker doesn’t have a good work ethic or standards of behavior.
In each case, you attribute your behavior to your circumstances and the other person’s behavior to their character. This simply isn’t fair.
No matter what the reason may be, it is never acceptable to impact someone in an inappropriate way. Our agitation may be justified due to difficult circumstances, but it is no reason to cause pain to others.
When you’re angry or unkind to another person, it impacts them in a negative way. Pay attention and try to change your behavior so that it reflects how you want to impact and treat those around you. If you are in a crisis or in a particularly bad spot, be transparent about your struggle with those around you so they have a chance to offer their support.
If you are in so much pain that you can’t be civil, consider staying in to take a mental health day and doing self-care to help get yourself back on track. Taking care of your emotional health is the number one goal, so you can set a healthy example for those in your sphere of influence.