The majority of people think that they are above-average drivers. Often, when living together, both of a couple will think that they themselves do more than 50% of the housework. And of course, we are all better employees than most of our co-workers. However, none of these examples can be true, or the word “average” wouldn’t exist. It’s common though, especially in individualistic, Western cultures, to think this way. A self-serving bias means that we internalize our achievements, attributing them to our personal abilities, and place blame on external factors when things go poorly. We do the opposite when considering others imperfections. If they fail, it’s because they did something wrong, rather than dealt with a difficult situation. For instance, if we’re in a fender bender, it’s because the other person wasn’t paying attention and caused the situation, while we were driving perfectly. Being aware of our self-serving bias is important, so that we can curb our nature to judge others unfairly. But, the bias for ourselves is not necessarily a bad thing; it helps us build our self-esteem, boosts our confidence, and gives us security. So if we need to lift those attributes, then let’s go ahead and think that we are better than average people. However, if we’re at a stage of self-reflection for growth, then we need to get a more realistic self-analysis, to truly figuring out the areas we are actually better than average and where we struggle. Knowing most of us have some degree of this bias, means we’ll need to compensate for it by being more critical in our self questioning.
Take action: When considering others, flip it around. The next time something goes well for someone close to you, attribute it to his or her personal qualities such as hard work, perseverance and smart risk-taking. When things go poorly for them, question what external factors are an issue.