Have you ever been for a run and been caught up and passed by someone else? Or perhaps seen someone coming the other way who appears to be much less fatigued than you are?

I have and the negative self-talk and feelings of inadequacy that then go on can be destructive to my run. We make judgements about ourselves in comparison to the other runner, our relative levels of fitness and how well we are doing.

Well, we are likely falling foul of the Fundamental Attribution Error, judging the other person on their appearance (their speed, how sweaty they are, how heavy they are breathing and even what they are wearing – those look like quick trainers!) and ourselves on how we feel internally.

What we are failing to take into consideration are all of the factors that we cannot see that affect how that other person is running, and we can often forget to apply that context to ourselves in the moment.

We might be at the end of a tough higher intensity interval, whilst they are just starting their warmup. This could be our third run of the week; it could be their first. They might be running 5km to your 10km or they might be tapering for a race whilst you are in a heavy volume building phase. There is so much we don’t know.

We have a tendency to make snap judgments, as Nobel prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman would say, What You See Is All There Is (WYSIATI). We only have the information available to us to make a judgment. There is no way of knowing all the information about that other person, so there is no way we can draw fair comparison.

Complex environments are those where performance is to do with the interactions between component parts more than the individual parts themselves. When we cannot see all of components and cannot understand the interactions between them (very difficult in a short time frame) then it is almost impossible to draw accurate comparisons.

Any environment that involves the interaction of people is likely to be complex. When you are managing people, before making a judgment call, try to explore, probe further by asking questions and make sense of what they are telling you by listening well. This will help you avoid making the wrong call and make you more effective as a manager.

If in doubt, avoid drawing direct comparisons, and be kind instead (particularly to yourself), as the saying goes, comparison is the thief of joy.

The next time you’re running, and someone overtakes you, instead of comparing yourself to the other runner, compare yourself to the version of you who didn’t get out of bed or off the sofa to go for a run, I always find that makes me feel better.