Recently I’ve read two memoirs written by people I know. Whenever I do this, I’m reminded of the fact that people’s lives are always far more complicated than they seem from the outside. And I vow, once again, to cut people slack. You jut never know what other people are going through.
The “fundamental attribution error” is a psychological phenomenon in which we tend to view other people’s actions as reflections of their characters, and to overlook the power of the situation to influence their actions: I assume that the guy in the drugstore is a jerk who is trying to cut in line, when in fact, he’s a considerate guy who’s rushing to get home with the medicine for his sick, miserable girlfriend.
With ourselves, however, we acknowledge the pressures of the situation. So when other people’s cell phones ring during a movie, it’s because they’re inconsiderate boors. If my cell phone rings during a movie, it’s because I’m a conscientious mother who needs to be able to get a call from a babysitter.
I’m trying to remember not to judge people, especially on the first or second encounter. Their actions may well not reveal their enduring character, but instead, reflect some situation they find themselves in.
I thought of this the other day. I went to pick up the Big Girl after school, but for some reason, pick-up wasn’t in the usual place. I ran into a friend I hadn’t seen in a while, who has a child in the same grade, and instead of saying a friendly hello, I grabbed her arm and blurted out,”‘Where’s pick-up today?” And after she told me, I rushed off, barely remembering to yell “Thanks!” over my shoulder.
Once I’d found the Big Girl, I realized how rude I’d been. I sent my friend an email (like yesterday, another apology; I’m trying to behave myself better so I apologize less). I explained that the Big Girl PANICS if the person picking her up is even five minutes late. I was afraid that if I didn’t get to her soon, she’d be a wreck.
It’s one of Life’s True Rules, and one of my catchphrases for the month: Cut people slack.