We are fascinated by stories. Just think of a great movie, a good book, or an entertaining friend. They bring us both suspense as well as entertainment.
What is not as obvious is that all of us have a tendency to be good story tellers. Especially when we are trying to make sense of others behavior. In these circumstances, we try to explain what people are thinking when we see the way they act.
Did you notice what was missing in the last sentence? It is the phrase “might be thinking”. I have heard explanations hundreds of times where someone describes to me in great deal why someone is acting the way they are. Perfectly logical, they believe their own stories.
The problem with their detailed explanations is that I find that they give others too much credit for the way they are acting. Their explanations carry with them too much certainty and not enough doubt.
People sometimes act in strange ways within a situation, simply because they don’t know better or their weaknesses lead to some weird or complicated outcomes. Other times, the person spends so much time both defending and acting in their self-interest that the storyteller gets confused and believes deeply that their actions were based on deep thought and sound logic for very specific motives.
The sad part of all of this, is that when we give people too much credit we simply delude ourselves. It makes it harder for us to see clearly in these situations. Much harder for us to be objective while continuing to be aware of what comes next. Because of all this, our actions begin to mirror what we see in others. Self-interest, strong ego, and the need to be right.
What’s important is to rise above all of this and don’t spend as much time creating stories as to why someone did something. Rather, spend your time productively figuring out what needs to be done next, now that the others have simply “played their hand”.