A stone on the window


One day, while I was working in my office on a presentation about what escalate aggressions, I heard a distinct bump coming from the glass door to the balcony.

Without much consideration I got up to see what had happened; and in the short time between my getting up, half-circling past my desk and walking to the balcony door, my thoughts and feelings had already formed an explanation: ”someone has thrown at my balcony door; a rock wrapped in something. Young rascals have now come to this area as well, oh – yes, I must handle them in a calm manner,” I complacently thought to myself as I opened the door.

I looked around – there was a bird, a wing bent to one side. It had flown smack into the windowpane, not dead, merely unconscious. I took it and put it on my desk , while I got back to my writing – which happened to be a text about ”Attribution-Theory”, a theory about people in conflict assign (”attribute”) others and themselves certain motives after a certain pattern. And while the little bird was gathering itself together, so was I, and I discovered my own variant of this attribution phenomenon; namely, that I in seconds had constructed an explanation to an upsetting experience – and that this explanation was totally off the mark.

I had established a fantasy-explanation with a fantasy-guilty part. I had in my mind created a scapegoat in less time than it took to snap my fingers. A vague sense of shame arose in me while the bird started moving again. I took a closer look. It was so tiny, with an orange top on it´s head. The bird hopped up to the groove between my neck and shoulder and nested there. I was speechless and felt the vast distance between my own little fear which had immediately created an image of being unsafe and this little bird and its trust.

I laughed at my reaction. With the bird nestled safely upon my neck, I crabbed over to the computer and had the internet help me identify the little thing as a ”Goldcrest”. The little bird enjoys the heat of a human body, it said. Before it had completely recovered I opened the terrace door and placed it gently outside.

I returned to the text about attribution: There is in relations with a certain amount of insecurity a tendency for people to attribute negative motives and hidden agendas to others for whatever unforeseen hindrances may come up in course of the relationship such as lack of clarity, misunderstandings or unexplainable events. At the same time, we hold ourselves completely free of blame for similar situations. If your colleague is late, that means she doesn’t care about you, but if you’re late, it was the traffic.

Attribution is very common, it is hard to catch, it happens almost immediately, it enhances aggression in conflicts. In clear communication we must stop to think before we leap into fantasyland where we can conjure up an explanation which doesn’t have any reality to it.

The goldcrest flew away without hitting any window panes.

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