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What is Water?

There's this concept in psychology that's so universal that it literally has the word fundamental in it.

It's called the Fundamental Attribution Error.

In short, we make the Fundamental Attributor Error when we see someone doing something "bad" and then conclude that they must be a "bad" person.

In doing so, we completely discount the situation they were in.

When we attribute someone's behaviour to their personality rather than the situation they were in, we have made the error.

You and I have made this error countless times and no doubt we will continue to make it many times in the future.

I was recently inspired by a metaphor that might help us pause in moments when we're about to commit this error.

Think of a fish.

A fish exists in water.

When we make the error, we're too focused on the fish.

We miss the water.

Don't forget that without the water, the fish wouldn't really be much of a fish, would it?

The problem of course, is that metaphorically speaking, we are all fish.

It's hard for us to see the water we swim in.

The next time someone's behaviour seems puzzling to you, just ask yourself, what's their water like?

I'll leave you with my inspiration for this riff.

Greetings parents and congratulations to Kenyon’s graduating class of 2005. There are these two young fish swimming along and they happen to meet an older fish swimming the other way, who nods at them and says “Morning, boys. How’s the water?” And the two young fish swim on for a bit, and then eventually one of them looks over at the other and goes “What the hell is water?”

Maroon background with white water jar in the middle

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