Other People's Opinions
In a society where interaction is part of everyday life, and other people form a vital part of life, other people's opinions are actually important in where we fit into society. However, we often think we know what other people are thinking and base our actions around those 'apparent' opinions.
Yet how do we actually know whether our assumptions about other people's opinions are true or not? Frankly, we don't. This is where the Fundamental Attribution Error comes in. To put it into plain English, it means that we make a basic error in assuming other people's thoughts without checking or otherwise knowing whether we are right or not in that assumption.
We base these assumptions on our schema of the world (another Psychology term which means a system of beliefs we have about how the world works from how to order food in a restaurant to how we 'should' live our lives). These schema are made up from our experiences in the world, with some schema being made up from other people's schema which we have picked up along the way: such as our parents' and friends' schemas.
Now mostly, these errors are fairly harmless: it is when we start living our lives entirely around what we think other people are thinking that it can become 'dangerous'. Many people fall into the trap of becoming practically obsessive about what other people are thinking of how we behave that everything that we do becomes subject to what we think other people are thinking.
So how do you stop being like that? First thing to do is to recognize when you are making these assumptions and when they are patently false, and put some kind of system in place to prevent yourself from getting caught up in the negative cycle. One useful technique is the Emotional Release technique taught in the Sedona Method where you can quickly overcome the obsessive nature that can sometimes come from the error. Another way is to understand why you have the schemas you do and to change them: often they are out of date and are not actually helpful (as they are supposed to be). They are also linked to the 'gremlins' (if you're British you might know the term from the recent spate of adverts on TV advertising education) - but that's a future article. Fundamentally though, to overcome harmful errors, it is all about understanding when you make them and stopping them spiral out of control.
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