Psychological projection is an unconscious process by which you attribute a characteristic or habit of yours to someone else. You “project” it on to another person. While the person you attribute that characteristic to may exhibit the quality, often they don’t. When you then start reacting to characteristics that are not really there, people around you will begin to dislike or disrespect your poor judgement. In a career situation, this can get you fired. In your personal life, it may lead to broken relationships.
Several years ago, I was chatting with a co-worker who commented that he was tired of everyone interrupting him. My jaw dropped in amazement upon hearing this! My co-worker interrupted the conversations of absolutely everyone he interacted with, not the other way around. When someone started to provide input to a conversation, he would interrupt and cut them off, and get angry at the other person, believing he had been offended. Needless to say, he was not respected in the workplace. He attributed his very own problem to others.
Years prior that situation, I worked with a project manager who feared being blamed for issues on her project. She would randomly blame her project team members, aggressively accusing them of very minor things that were in fact not happening. She felt that others were blaming her for problems, and she reacted by blaming them first. Her own issue of blaming others was projected on to the people she worked with. Eventually, few wanted to work with her, she could not complete her projects on time or on budget, and she was ultimately fired from her job.
One cannot be successful in life unless they interact correctly with reality. When reality is not perceived accurately, your reactions to the perceived reality will be ineffective, and perhaps detrimental.
If you find yourself thinking that a lot of people around you have some negative (or positive) characteristic, test that belief first before reacting to it. Observe carefully and gather data to measure your belief. Often, your belief does not measure up to the facts, and the characteristic is in fact your own.
Do you know what scares me the most? It’s when I feel like everyone around me is really stupid!