All of us have habitual mistakes we make in our relationships with other people. One of the most common is the False Attribution Error. This is a fancy way of saying, “The reasons I disappointed you were the situation and the circumstances. The reason you disappointed me is your lack of character.” We view our mistakes as stemming from situation and stress. We view others mistakes as stemming from their disposition to be that way.
In dealing with a person who has fallen short of our expectations in some way we need to diffuse our anger. One of the ways to do this is to ask ourselves, “Why would a well meaning, sincere, good hearted person do this? “ This opens our mind to an infinite number of possibilities that are not dispositional. With the mind opened emotions are damped and a reasonable inquiry/conversation/confrontation can take place.
We often find that stress, the situation, limitations, etc. did, indeed, drive the other person. Together, we can remove or change these drivers and find mutually beneficial solutions.
We have all been ambushed by the False Attribution Error when we fall short of what we intended. Most often that ambush comes from within. We fail, make a mistake, disappoint ourselves, etc. and a voice tells us we are a failure, we are stupid, we never deliver. Where is that voice coming from and what is that voice doing to us?
We have internalized the False Attribution Error and we have fed a nagging, negative nuisance that will provide us with a continuing stream of criticism and recrimination. Every time we feed the nagger the voice gets stronger. Drop a wet, slippery dish and the voice shouts “You are a klutz!” Forget your house keys? “You are so stupid!” The voice is very convincing. Soon, we begin to think we are clumsy and stupid.
Use the same technique on yourself that you would use with a friend. Externalize the internal situation a little. Try this mantra. “I am a well meaning, sincere, good hearted and capable person. Why would I do this? ““Did I do it because I chose to do it?”
You are all those things aren’t you? Well, what happened? You bumped the dish against a box of groceries? Then don’t put the box there next time. You left the keys in your other jacket? Pick a place to always put the keys when you come into the house. You dropped another dish two years ago and you can’t remember the last time you forgot your keys. Do those sound like bad habits to you?
The incidents were not big deals. The unhelpful response is. The response blames a nonexistent character failure. The response begins a pattern to convince you that you are clumsy and stupid. Treat yourself as a respected friend. Ignore Mr./Ms Nagging Negative Pants as the ignorant source it is.