As humans, we make attributions about everything that happens in our lives. Who was to blame for that argument? Why have I failed this exam? Why is our company only achieving a few sales? The answers we give to these questions condition how we feel and how we act. However, our attributions aren’t always the most accurate. The pie chart method can be useful in this respect.
How many times have you been blunt, unfair, and rather extreme when it comes to attributing responsibilities? For instance, you might’ve blamed your partner for the arguments between you. Or, you may have beaten yourself up for something that went wrong without considering other variables that were outside of your control.
Stopping for a moment to reflect can make a difference in terms of the quality of your actions, thoughts, or emotions.
The pie chart method
A pie chart is a really simple tool. It’s used for different purposes in psychology and personal development. The basis is simple. It involves drawing a large circle on a sheet of paper and then dividing it into sections (as if they were the slices of a pie). Each of these sections represents something different depending on the objective of the chart.
For example, if you were using this tool to better manage your time, each ‘slice of the pie’ would symbolize one of the activities or obligations you have to carry out on a daily basis.
On the other hand, if you’re going to use a pie chart to reattribute responsibilities, you start by writing in the upper part the ‘title’ of the situation. Perhaps you’ve failed an exam or you’re having arguments with your partner.
Next, you think about and list all the people or factors that could’ve contributed to the result. You then assign them a percentage of responsibility for what happened.
With this data, you divide the circle into segments or portions (representing the percentages) and write the name of the person or the corresponding factor. The result will be a graphic representation of the situation. This allows you to observe it with perspective and depth, instead of letting yourself be carried away by your initial impressions.
Examples of using pie charts
Let’s take an example to better understand how a pie chart is used. Imagine that a teenager has failed an exam and blames it all on a teacher who ‘has it in for them’. However, when they stop and analyze the situation, they may find many other factors to consider:
- They didn’t study hard enough.
- Despite their attempts, they don’t understand the subject well.
- They made some mistakes in the exam because they didn’t sleep well the night before.
- There were some questions in the exam for which they didn’t prepare.
This exercise not only allows for a more accurate attribution of responsibility. In fact, it often makes it possible to adjust the degree of control we have over a given situation.
In this example, with regard to the idea that it was the teacher’s fault, there’s nothing that can be done. However, concerning the other points, the student can take certain measures for the next time. For instance, they could sign up for an academy to reinforce and clarify their knowledge, start studying for the next exam earlier, and make sure they get enough sleep the night before.
A sales example
Another example could be that of a company that isn’t achieving expected sales or results. The easiest thing would be to blame the salesperson for not doing their job properly. Nevertheless, in reality, there may be more factors at play. For example:
- The product has major flaws or deficiencies.
- The marketing strategy isn’t well designed.
- Managers are failing to motivate and incentivize their employees, hence they’re underperforming.
- The customer service is deficient which means the company is losing sales.
From this perspective, there are many more people involved who have to take responsibility, not just the salesperson. In addition, there are many more fronts that can be addressed in order to make improvements.
Pie charts can help you make more accurate assessments
A pie chart can be used in any everyday situation in which it’s felt that there’s unfairness or too much dichotomy in attributing responsibility. Furthermore, it can be essential in personal relationships when conflicts and misunderstandings are reproduced. Indeed, thanks to this tool, you can stop blaming the other party and contemplate other variables, as well as accept your own responsibility.
In addition, a pie chart can act as an intervention in certain psychological disorders. For example, it’s common for people with depression to make internal attributions for negative events (blaming themselves) and external attributions for positive ones (not taking credit for their achievements). Adjusting these kinds of valuations is absolutely necessary.
A pie chart can also be useful in treating certain anxiety disorders. For instance, when faced with physiological symptoms, such as tachycardia or shortness of breath, the sufferer should be able to attribute them to non-dangerous causes in order to reduce panic attacks.
In short, a pie chart is a simple, versatile, and extremely functional tool that can be applied in multiple situations.
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