- “He speaks without thinking his words through.”
- “She is easily influenced by what others say.”
- “He could do something fruitful instead of wasting his time on that.”
Do such words run in your head when the people around you make mistakes? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one who has such thoughts.
But here’s the deal: Finding faults in another person is easy. In this article, we will cover how we easily spot the flaws of others but fail to recognize our own.
- Why do we find flaws in others
- Examples of finding faults
- How to reduce finding flaws in others and start identifying your mistakes:
Let me tell you my story of failing to identify my shortcomings. When I just started this blog, I had drafted content for my first few articles. I reached out to a fellow blogger and asked him, “What do you think about the ideas I have? Do you think the readers will like it?”
The blogger responded with his honest thoughts. “These posts seem a little repetitive and common. Try to make them unique and engaging,” he said.
Do you know what I did next? I mentally cursed him saying, “Looks like he has a habit of finding a problem with everything. He should welcome ideas with an open mind.”
The next week, a team member came to me with an idea and asked for my feedback. I heard him out and said, “We cannot implement your suggestion in our scenario. The reasons are ….”
Irrespective of my justification, I was no different. I was not welcome to ideas either. But I never saw my flaws. I was quick to spot the same mistake in another person but failed to see the problem in myself.
Why do we find flaws in others
As human beings, we have specific characteristics ingrained in us by default. They do not last forever but do not vanish by themselves either. It takes conscious effort to reduce its effects on our thoughts and actions. Here are some reasons why we exhibit such behavior.
The negativity instinct
The negativity instinct is your tendency to spot cons before the pros. For example, if someone comes to you for feedback, you think of suggesting improvements before identifying the positive aspects. Even if you have good things to mention, the negatives come to your mind in an instant. You may find some positives to talk about or none at all.
A reason why we have such a tendency stems from evolution. Among all our attributes, the instinct to survive exhibits the most potent force. All living things have certain features that increase their chance of survival.
Fear is one such instinct that helps us stay alive. Think about what would happen if human beings had no fear whatsoever. People would try to fight a lion, jump off cliffs and walk straight into a fire. Fear increases our chances of staying alive.
Identifying adverse events such as diseases, calamities, or danger helped us stay alive. Though the risks no longer exist, your brain still operates with the old software.
Your instinct to spot a problem can sway your mind into finding the negatives first.
The ego to feel superior
Your ego needs a constant stroke of appreciation. When you do not receive such positive reinforcement from external sources, you try to make yourself feel better. Your brain attempts to boost your self-esteem whenever there is an opportunity.
When someone presents an idea, finding a flaw or an improvement makes you feel superior. It gives you an illusion of knowledge and expertise irrespective of whether you possess it or not.
Examples of finding faults
On the surface, it may seem like you do not find faults of other people. But we are quick to spot the errors without realizing we did so. Here are some examples.
1. He does not understand my point
Partners in a relationship often quarrel over why the other could not understand their perspective.
Women consider spending on makeup as a necessity while men splurge on watching a sports event live. Women hate it when the husband throws his shirts on the bed while men hate it when the wife leaves the empty cup in the car.
When the husband does not talk much, the wife assumes he is having an extramarital affair when all he had was a stressful week. When the wife texts and smiles, the husband thinks she is getting cozy with a male colleague while she was gossiping with her lady friend.
If I ask you to find 5 flaws in your partner, you can do so within a few minutes. But, if I ask you to point out 5 of your faults, you cannot spot them that quickly. If I ask your partner to do the same activity, the logic still holds.
So how can 2 partners find the flaws on the other side but fail to spot their own? By logic, one of the following should hold true:
- One person is making up false allegations
- Each person is ignorant about his/her shortcomings
The second option is more likely because every person has flaws. The challenging part is identifying it in oneself.
2. He has a problem with me
In an office environment or a friends circle, you will have one or more people you dislike. I am sure you have many reasons to justify your hatred too.
But there also exists another person who feels the same about you. It could very well be the same person you despise. But if I ask you why the other person hates you, you would have an explanation again. You believe he doesn’t like your way of life, and his anger is illogical.
If you think with an open mind, you will notice the bias in your thought process. You consider your dislike towards another person logical, but the complaints against you stupid. In both cases, you pin the blame on the other person.
3. Sticking to your own beliefs
When you hear an argument that goes against your belief, you try to justify your side. You give rational arguments to convince the other person why your perspective was right.
When the receiver does not buy your thoughts, you shrug it off saying, “He does not have an open mind to hear my thoughts.”
But look at the situation from an external lens. Just like he failed to understand your side, you failed to understand his. You were no different. You might have had better facts and arguments, but that holds no good. You believe he stuck to his guns, and he feels the same about you.
4. He cuts people often while speaking
You know a person who cuts people between their thoughts and ideas. “Why can’t he wait until I finish?” you complain in your head.
But are you sure you don’t cut other people? As much as you believe you don’t, you will know the truth only when you ask others who give you honest feedback.
5. He does things his way
Whether it is a friend, your partner, a coworker, or a random acquaintance, you tend to believe that some people do things their own way.
If you were open enough to understand the other person’s perspective, the problem would not arise at all. The fact that you have such a concern implies you are adamant about your way of doing things too.
He doesn’t see it, and neither do you. You do not want to compromise, and neither does he. The bottom line is, both of you have the same thought running in your heads.
How to reduce finding flaws in others and start identifying your mistakes:
Finding flaws comes ingrained within us. But, you can keep such behavior under control by putting in conscious effort. Here are a few tips which can help.
1. Use the 2-second rule:
The 2-second rule helps you see things from another person’s perspective
After receiving information(by sight, sound, or actions), all you need to do is pause for a moment to gather your thoughts. A brief pause of 1-2 seconds does the job.
What you do during the pause depends on the situation. Try asking the question, “Do I also exhibit similar behavior without my knowledge?” Your brain will fight between denying the allegations and keeping an open mind.
2. Ask your trusted ones for honest feedback on 3 questions
The best way to know the truth about your flaws is to ask people. Pick 3-5 people who know you well enough and are willing to share critical feedback. The right balance is to choose one of your good friends, one colleague, and one person from your family.
Ask them to answer these 3 questions with absolute honesty:
- What are the 3 things you must stop doing?
- What are the 3 things you must continue doing?
- What are the 3 things you must start doing?
The answers to these questions hold a magic mirror to yourself. They highlight your flaws which are otherwise invisible to you.
3. Use the 5 words method
Here is another powerful technique to identify gaps between your perception of yourself and what others think of you.
Start with writing 5 words that you think describe you the best. For example, you can choose words like:
- Effective communicator
You can pick 2 worded phrases like ‘effective communicator’ as far they convey only one context. As much as possible, choose positive words. Feel free to jot down a few common negative attributes such as impatience, short temper, stress etc.
Now pick 3-5 people who know you well. You can select more people if you like, as far as they know you long enough to provide the right comment.
Ask them to mention 5 words that describe you the best. The activity yields the best results when you ask them to answer spontaneously without preparing the answers. You can allow 5-10 minutes to think, but providing a day can lead to fabricated and diplomatic responses.
Collect all the responses together and compare them with your 5 words. Keep in mind that people will use different words to convey a characteristic. One might say ‘honest’ and the other mentions’ transparent’ or ‘straight-forward.’
The takeaway for you from the activity is to check for any significant mismatches between your opinion and that of others. Some might use a word that you do not believe is among your top 5. You might consider one of the attributes as your core identity, but no one else feels so.
The differences help you correct your behavior to become the person you intend to be.
4. Be more mindful of your thoughts and actions
A good chunk of your actions and thoughts run on autopilot. For example:
- the route you take to work
- the side you get off the bed from
- your posture when you clap or cross arms
- the sequence you use to tie your shoelaces
If you find that hard to believe, try crossing your arms over your chest. Either your right or the left hand will end up on top. Now try crossing arms with your other hand on top. You will not feel comfortable in that posture.
Your brain likes routines because it saves energy. But, you can train your mind to be more mindful of the actions it takes. All it requires is practice.
Tell yourself where you placed the keys, think how your sarcastic joke might come across, evaluate what your actions might lead to.
The more you practice, the more mindful you become of your thoughts, words, and actions. You do not have to reach the zen level of an enlightened monk. Higher awareness about yourself makes you a better person overall.
5. Make a list of your mistakes at the end of each day
Take 2 minutes before bed to write down a couple of mistakes you made that day. You might have uttered some words you repented saying or performed some deeds you wish you could take back.
The errors do not always have to be major. The mistakes which occur more often are little words or actions which led to a minor consequence without any significant damage.
What should you do after writing your mistakes? Nothing. That’s the beauty.
When you write your mistakes down, you feed it into your subconscious mind. Next time you are about to make a similar mistake, you hear your inner voice alerting you just in the brink of time.
You will develop a powerful subconscious mind if you train it with the right practices.
You and I make mistakes. You and I have our weaknesses. You and I can easily spot the flaws in others.
It takes effort, patience, and humility to look at our own flaws. Knowing your weak spots is the first step in correcting them. Unfortunately, there is no other way of solving them without realizing and accepting them first.
Many a time, you see your flaws but sweep them under the rug. Sometimes, you fail to spot them. Some other times, they come to you as a surprise because you believe the opposite about yourself.
No matter how you find your flaws, embrace them, accept them, and correct them.
Maxim Dsouza has spent over a decade experimenting and finding various time management techniques to improve his productivity. He strongly understands the fact that time is a limited commodity and tries to make every second count. He has extensive experience in leadership in startups, small businesses, and large corporations.
He has helped people of different professions and age groups gain clarity on their goals, improve focus, revise their time management skills and develop an awareness of their psychological cognitive biases.