I did it again the other day.
I jumped to conclusions again.
I blamed people – always out to get me, always trying to do the wrong thing.
When I thought about it, when I heard the whole story, I was embarrassed…again.
Of course no one was trying to do me any harm. It was only a series of odd events that just lined up wrong.
“Be careful of what you assume, what you assume often becomes what you consume” ― Constance Friday
I teach students and friends that blaming people (and their character) is not the best first step to take. Usually it’s the situation that’s the cause of things. But, I’m not always very good at taking my own advice. I too frequently jump to conclusions, believe the worst and seldom give the benefit of doubt to others.
Isn’t that the way it is with you? Emotions take control and feelings start to run our mouths. We start talking way ahead of our thinking (including reflecting and praying).
Why is it so difficult to give everyone else a break? This is actually a common phenomenon, a cognitive bias in human thinking that we all share. Correspondence Bias occurs when we believe other people mostly do what they do because of their dispositions (personality) and we attribute our own actions to the situations we encounter. She’s always late because of her lazy character. I’m late because there’s typically bad traffic at this time of day.
Do you see how this can cause all sorts of problems with other people we work with, in our families and even our close friends?
The best way to break free from this trap is first, become aware of it and then to start to pay more attention. Learning to pay more attention to the situations all around us that cause things to happen to everyone, like:
- the dynamics of family
- living in a hurry (too much on your plate)
- insecure co-workers who keep dragging you into their drama
- bad traffic on the way to work (and around your desk)
- financial fears because there’s still so much that’s unknown about tomorrow
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” ― Abraham Maslow
Give other people a break, give yourself a break.
Stop using absolute language when talking about other people (always, forever, constantly, never, every time, etc.)
In the Gospel, Jesus challenges us to think about other people in a dramatically different way, “But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you” (Matthew 5:44). Thinking and then challenging your old assumptions about relationships will do wonders for fixing cognitive biases.
And, it might do wonders for you, the next time you’re ready to jump in with both feet…to look before you leap!