CliftonStrengths and Breaking the Bias of Fundamental Attribution Error


In today’s world, it’s common for us to judge others based on their actions while granting ourselves leniency for our intentions. This phenomenon, known as the fundamental attribution error, is rooted in our inherent negativity bias. However, by leveraging the power of CliftonStrengths® and embracing the Diamond Rule, we can break free from this bias and unlock the true potential of individuals and teams.

Let’s explore how understanding and applying CliftonStrengths® can help us overcome bias and foster a more positive and productive environment.

The Negativity Bias and Fundamental Attribution Error

Neuroscience research has revealed that we possess a negativity bias, leading us to view others’ behaviors in a negative light. While we may extend grace and understanding to ourselves, we tend to judge others solely based on their actions. This fundamental attribution error can hinder our ability to harness the full potential of individuals, whether as leaders, managers, or individuals seeking to understand and motivate their loved ones.

Moving from Judgment to Empathy

To better understand others and foster their growth, we need to shift our perspective from judgment to empathy. By recognizing that our own strengths and inclinations may differ from those of others, we can adopt a more open and empathetic mindset. A CliftonStrengths® assessment is a valuable tool in this process, providing insights into our unique combination of talents and strengths.

The Golden Rule’s Limitations

The Golden Rule, which suggests treating others as we wish to be treated, can fall short when it comes to understanding and accommodating diverse strengths and personalities. For example, if we excel in communication, we may assume that others should possess the same ability and expect immediate responses. However, individuals with strengths such as introspection or thoughtfulness may require more time to process information. Recognizing these differences allows us to move beyond the limitations of the Golden Rule.

Embracing the Platinum Rule

The Platinum Rule takes empathy a step further by considering how others prefer to be treated. By adjusting our behaviors to align with their strengths, values, and cultural backgrounds, we can build stronger connections and facilitate more effective communication. For instance, if our supervisor values precision and thoroughness, adapting our communication style to provide concise, data-driven information can enhance the relationship.

The Diamond Rule: Honoring Uniqueness

The Diamond Rule represents the pinnacle of empathy and understanding. It involves appreciating the individuality of others, including their unique personality, values, cultural experiences, and strengths. Simultaneously, we honor and value our own traits and strengths, ensuring we do not compromise our authenticity. By embracing the diversity of human filters and delighting in the richness it brings, we create an environment of psychological safety, allowing individuals to thrive and reach their full potential.


Breaking free from the negativity bias and fundamental attribution error is crucial for leaders, managers, and individuals aiming to build strong relationships and maximize human potential. Understanding and leveraging CliftonStrengths® enables us to appreciate and harness the unique qualities of individuals, leading to enhanced performance and a positive work environment. By progressing from judgment to empathy, from the Golden Rule to the Platinum Rule, and ultimately embracing the Diamond Rule, we can create a space where everyone’s talents and strengths are valued and celebrated.

To explore this topic further and access additional resources on talent development, diversity, equity, and inclusion, visit my Resources page. Discover a wealth of strengths-based tools, infographics, and toolkits to support your journey of self-awareness and understanding others.

To embark on this path of growth and embrace the greatness that lies within each of us contact Brent today.

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