Ways to distinguish yourself – #68 Generalize (very) slowly

Ways to distinguish yourself – #68 Generalize (very) slowly

By Rajesh Setty on Sun 27 Nov 2005, 6:00 AM – Leave Comment

We are smart and we know that if we generalize anything it means that it is applicable at all times. Right?

What we practice, though, is very different. Most people don’t need a

lot of proof to make far reaching conclusions and generalizations. Have

you heard someone say “He’s always late”, “He’s mean”, “She is always

complaining” etc. They may be true or they may not be. But the way

these statements are made it is as if “they are true all the time under

all circumstances.”

A personal experience: A couple of weeks ago I was finding a parking

spot at a shopping complex. It was a busy weekend so there were not

many spots left. It was already dark and I was driving slowly. After a

few minutes, I found one but could not park there immediately as the

car in the next spot had both the back doors open. A couple were

standing outside from both the doors and it appeared like they were

trying to fix something. I had to wait. After a few minutes, I started

losing patience and was starting to conclude how inconsiderate some

people were and started to wonder “Why don’t they fix whatever they

were fixing when they park their car at home?”  I was getting

ready to make some conclusions. Just then both the husband and wife

came out – each one with holding a cute little kid. Both kids were

sleeping happily and it was clear to me that the couple were trying to

take them out without disturbing their sleep. My generalization thought

process came to a screeching halt. It was confirmed again – it’s so

easy to fall into the trap and generalize.

If you observe carefully, the root cause is our tendency to “assume that something is true for the whole when it’s only true for the part.” You can beat this system by just slowing down whenever you are making far reaching conclusions or generalizations.


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