How often have we observed someone’s behavior, or heard about it from a good-intentioned colleague or friend, and thought well, that “person” needs to change.
Often, our first instinct as friends, managers, or humans is to modify the person as a means to modifying behavior. We offer a training class, for example, or coaching perhaps.
The behavior that we see in others and we observe in ourselves comes from both our personalities and our environments. Social Psychologist Kurt Lewin’s famous formula tells us:
B = P(E), where B is behavior, P is person, and E is the environment.
These variables work in conjunction, not in isolation.
It’s easy to spot trouble and blame the P, the person. Those solutions seems easier. But if we ignore the environment piece the new learned behavior can be quickly ignored, not reinforced, even punished.
When we are observing (or complaining) about someone’s behavior we often forget about the E, the environment. But when it’s us who is feeling upset or not ourselves we can quickly blame the environment and eschew personal responsibility. A real head-scratcher, eh?
Let’s simplify. Any intervention should and can take both variables into account. But let’s simplify even more – understanding both the personal and environmental forces at work is how we can lead with empathy. That alone is reason to care.