On overclaiming

I recently came across this column on “overclaiming,” also called “unconscious overclaiming.” Like the author (New York Magazine’s Melissa Dahl), I, too, was first introduced to this concept by author Gretchen Rubin, who has written about it in her blog and at least one of her “Happiness” books as well as discussed it on her podcast.

The concept is simple: People naturally tend to think they work longer/harder/more than others – whether it’s at work, school, home or volunteer.

“The truth is that most people believe they’re doing more than their fair share of the work,” Dahl writes. “It’s a quirk of human egocentrism psychologists call overclaiming, and social scientists have observed the phenomenon among groups as varied as M.B.A. students, academics, ROTC cadets, college basketball teammates, and married couples. When researchers ask members of these groups to estimate what percentage of the work they felt they’d contributed to some project, as the experiment often goes, the cumulative result is almost always far north of 100 percent.”

So how do you get your own egocentrism in check? (For the sake of your personal and professional relationships, it really is a good idea to work on this.)

Column: “It’s surprisingly easy. ‘Unlike lots of afflictions that you can’t do anything about, you can overcome this with just a little bit of attention paid to everyone else,’ Epley said. … Consciously getting out of your own egocentric head for a minute, then, seems to be a simple way to talk yourself down when you’re about to throw a righteous indignation-fueled tantrum. (‘Cool it there, Ms. Self-Centered,’ as Epley phrased it. ‘You’re probably not the only one doing work.’)”

To give yourself some additional perspective, Rubin also suggests reminding yourself of something you never do every time you’re feeling indignant about something you always end up doing.

These were my favorite parts of Dahl’s column, but if you want to read the whole thing, click here.

Melissa Biernacinski serves as Director of Media Relations for Imagine Communications. To contact her, you’re more than welcome to email her.

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