Apropos of Nothing


So I just started re-reading “Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality aka the Greatest Fanfiction Ever Written Why Aren’t You Reading it it’s Free” (which you can find HERE, did I mention that it’s free?) and this paragraph from chaper 5, (The Fundamental Attribution Error), caught my attention:

“ “Well…” Harry said, trying to figure out how to describe that particular bit of Muggle science. “Suppose you come into work and see your colleague kicking his desk. You think, ‘what an angry person he must be’. Your colleague is thinking about how someone bumped him into a wall on the way to work and then shouted at him. Anyone would be angry at that, he thinks. When we look at others we see personality traits that explain their behaviour, but when we look at ourselves we see circumstances that explain our behaviour. People’s stories make internal sense to them, from the inside, but we don’t see people’s histories trailing behind them in the air. We only see them in one situation, and we don’t see what they would be like in a different situation. So the fundamental attribution error is that we explain by permanent, enduring traits what would be better explained by circumstance and context.” There were some elegant experiments which confirmed this, but Harry wasn’t about to go into them. “

It seems to me that this might just be the most elegant argument in favor of negotiation and pretalk that I’ve ever heard. We negotiate with each other before committing our most precious resource (our trust) into someone else’s hands because finding the intersection of personality and circumstance is integral to a good partnership. And without a discussion of boundaries, limits, and comforts; without that safety net that having an understanding of each other provides; without drawing that map of each other that intersection is hard to find, let alone navigate.

(Anyone who knows me well will not be surprised to find that I think this is also the underlying tenet of successfully waiting tables, as well.)