Have you ever noticed that when you make a mistake you are inclined to see it as a bit of bad luck, but when you watch someone else do the same thing you tend to believe they are careless or foolish? If you’ve noticed this about yourself then it means you are well within a norm. Most of us are inclined to do this. In fact this behaviour is so common that there’s a name for it – the fundamental attribution error or the attribution effect.
When we see someone doing something we don’t like we tend to think it relates to their personality rather than the situation the person might be in. Someone who didn’t return our call/remember our birthday/let us out in traffic did this because he/she is a bad person. When we do exactly the same things there is always a good reason for it (we are sick/busy/urgently late). In other words, they are bad (or stupid), while in the same situation we always have good reasons for our actions.
“…keenness of understanding is due to keenness of vision…” (1)
This tendency is not helpful when it comes to understanding each other. If we reserve our judgement for our own actions and realise that we cannot know the full story when it comes to the actions of others then that might help us to cut them some slack. And hopefully they’ll do the same for us 🙂