Updated: Aug 17
Could you think of a time when you were driving down a road, and suddenly someone cut you off? How did you respond? A lot of people would say that they had a bit of classic road rage. Maybe you called the other person an idiot. Maybe you assumed that they didn’t know how to drive at all.
Now in another instance, your coworker is late everyday and never tells you why. You just assume they’re an irresponsible person, and attribute their lateness to their character. This human flaw is called the “Fundamental Attributional Error”, or the “Attribution Effect”. This is when we take the situational behaviour of a person, and attach it to their character based off of nothing other than our own perspective. Without ever seeing the bigger picture. Perhaps the person that cut you off this morning was rushing to the hospital to see their loved one’s passing. Perhaps that late coworker is hanging on by their last thread, and they aren’t getting any sleep to hear their alarm. Sometimes it’s very easy to forget that every other person— all 8 billion of them — are living their own lives and experiencing their own suffering. It’s up to us to see the suffering and offer compassion in return. I know that can be difficult, it’s something I’m still working on personally.
I’ve worked in customer service for coming up on a decade and it may have stolen part of my youth. Regardless of that, I have learned in the last few years, that misery spreads misery. Humans that are suffering, know no better than to spread their own suffering onto others. Maybe me not warming up their chocolate croissant just REALLY was not what they needed that day. I know that personally when I’m feeling miserable, I can’t force that energy onto those around me. It’s something that I’ve tried to work on. However some people just aren’t there yet, and sometimes we just have to meet them for where they’re at. I’ve met many souls with hearts of gold in need of nothing more than understanding and compassion. Many people whose stories I hope to share one day.
I’ve learned a lot of things in my 20’s so far, but one of the biggest lessons has been that behaviour ≠ character. Not always at least. Repetitive behaviour can, but thats a different story all together.
So next time somebody flips you off or gives you attitude at work, remember that behaviour does not equal character. Ask yourself, is your frustration stemming from the Attribution Effect?
Meet misery with kindness.
Thank you for sharing space with me.
With love, Paige Emilee.