This week was a crazy one for me. Last Friday my girlfriend and I packed up all our stuff and drove across the country from Boston to Minneapolis. For 25 hours of driving, the trip wasn’t terrible, but it was a lot of time spent exclusively in each others’ company. But yesterday, I started my new job, coaching CrossFit full time at a gym in Minneapolis. My job requires me to interact with a large number of people at a given time as I coach a class.
One of the things I was most concerned about moving from Boston to the Midwest was the cultural differences between the populations. I spent my whole life to this point in Boston, and I understand that behaviors and ways of interacting in Boston might be different in Minneapolis. During the lectures this week, I realized that this might be a case of the fundamental attribution error; that is to say, I was concerned with the way people would behave because they were from a place, without taking into account the situation in which they found themselves.
Once I began to coach the class, and got into the rhythm of it, I found that it functioned more or less the same way as the classes I’d coached at my previous gym. This goes with the idea that people will behave according to the situations in which they find themselves, rather than that personality types are stable across conditions. Although I was concerned about the new city and culture in which I found myself, I am now reassured by the idea that people will behave predictably in familiar situations.
My new move has also been interesting because I’m currently living in a small apartment with my girlfriend and her parents, as we wait for our lease to start at the beginning of August. While I’m not uncomfortable with this arrangement, the size of the dwelling presents some issues with regards to things like scarcity of space in the fridge, or the need to clean up the kitchen more frequently. I don’t consider myself a lazy person, but in the past it was just my mother and me living at home together in a larger house, and I cleaned up less frequently than I do now. The behavior of cleaning up the kitchen can be seen as prosocial, but I would not describe my reasons for doing so as empathetic or altruistic. While I recognize the inconvenience of a sink full of dirty dishes, a pot left on the stove, or a full dishwasher, I don’t find myself motivated by the desire to make someones life easier. Rather, I just don’t want to irritate anybody. More specifically, I don’t want anyone to become irritated and complain about it to me, or change their view of me because I left the kitchen mess unattended. These social pressures make me question my own altruism under other circumstances, but I also recognize that the result of them makes everybodys’ lives easier.