My dad taught me well. He used to say “any time you get crappy service at a restaurant, leave the waiter a dime, nickel, penny, and a button.” The reason: because 16 cents is useless, and the button is insulting.
However, I find that waiters can teach us a pretty fundamental principle of social intelligence, a lesson that never fails to escape me in everyday life.
A friend down at JustTapTheGlass call this a “fundamental attribution error,” or an error where we judge behaviors to be based upon disposition, or situational elements.
When we fail to objectively look upon other people’s behavior, we judge their personalities for how we see them in the moment. An easy example to understand this is that of your best friend. If you best friend, who you’ve known for years, comes up to you in a bitter and angry mood, you’ll probably explain it by blaming it on bad circumstance. You’ll say something like “what happened dude, you’re usually not like this,” and later on, you’ll justify his actions by exclaiming “he’s normally a chill guy, he just had a bad day.” However, how often do you find yourself saying this about your waiter?
If a waiter comes to a table, and he/she is acting aggressively or inappropriately, we assume that waiter to be an angry, aggressive person. We do not rationalize it by explaining “well, I’m sure this waiter usually treats his customers with respect, but he/she is having a bad day.” By failing to look at the person objectively, we falsely judge their personality based on the situation.
The reason why I brought this up: correcting fundamental attribution errors is the easiest way to boost your social intelligence. By looking upon the actions of others objectively, and judging them as you would judge yourself, you will find yourself understanding more people and the decisions they choose to make.
We’re all human. By recognizing that a stranger is just as human as you, you are giving yourself a social edge in any situation.