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On Empathy

Behavioral Finance

Carl Richards writes the wonderful column, Sketch Guy, in the New York Times.  This week’s sketch is a call to empathy, where he asks, What Burdens Is That Other Person Carrying?

It’s a beautiful reminder of the Illusion of Transparency, the cognitive bias that describes our inclination to overestimate our knowledge of another person’s thoughts or state of mind (or how evident our own thoughts/feelings/desires might appear).

If I’m driving in traffic and I cut you off, I’m more likely to chalk it up to a mistake (and forgive myself the mental lapse).  If you cut me off, I’m more likely to assume that you did it on purpose (I can see that you’re obviously just a jerk).  

Knowing that we’re hard-wired to err in that way, perhaps it’s possible to tilt the scales in the direction of compassion.  It’s worth a shot.