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Why You're Always Right, and Customers are Always Wrong

by Allen Weiss  |  
February 5, 2002

Your affiliate relationship is on the rocks. Your customers are screaming about your bad service. Your relationship with a key partner is going south. What's happening?

Well, if you're like most people you have a tendency to believe the fault lies with your affiliate, customers and partners. Of course, that's not true, but why are you always right and someone else is wrong?

To answer this (and better diagnose what's really going on), we offer you a handy idea called the "Fundamental Attribution Error."

The fundamental attribution error (or FAE for short) has long been known by social psychologists and researchers in consumer behavior. This is essentially a bias people have towards assigning responsibility for behavior. It goes something like this:

If something bad happens to me, it's due to somebody or something else; If something good happens to me, well, it's because of me!

This is something that is hardwired in our brains (you see it plainly with young children), and remains throughout our life.

Now, you might think of this as a cute scientific finding that has little relevance to marketing or anything. If you think this way, you're wrong. It has everything to do with marketing, sales, service, alliances and marketing relationships. We'll go even has an effect on your own personal relationships as well.


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Allen Weiss founded MarketingProfs in 2000 and continues to provide strategic direction for the company as CEO. He's currently a professor of marketing at the University of Southern California and teaches mindfulness in companies at InsightLA.

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