Skip to main content

Is there a formal name for the bias/fallacy/false belief that we can only learn from those who can entirely relate to us, or that those who can’t entirely relate to us can’t teach us?

I see this bias/fallacy play out all the time, and it really holds us back in life.

Examples:

1. The poor can’t learn how not to be poor from the poor, but only from the rich or middle class. But the poor often discount even very sound advice or assistance from the rich and middle class because the rich and middle class “can’t possibly understand what it’s like to be poor.”

2. Those suffering from victim mentality (that is, from identification with their victim status) can’t recover by taking advice from others blinded by the same syndrome, but only from those who are sufficiently sighted. And yet victim mentality sufferers insist that they have nothing to learn from the sufficiently sighted because “they can’t possibly understand what it's like to be a victim.”

The healthy and stable have so freaking much to offer the unhealthy and unstable, and many desperately want to help, but effective aid is exceedingly hard to give in large part because of the false believe that only those who can entirely relate to us are suitable coaches.

The truth is most often the opposite: Coaching is frequently so valuable precisely because the coach can’t entirely relate!

So, how can the healthy help the sick given the prevalence of this false belief? The best way I’ve found so far is not to try to help them directly but rather to enable and empower recovering sufferers to do so.

Recommended for You

Alcoholics Anonymous doesn’t teach anything that the suffering addict hasn’t heard a million times before from the sober. But its lessons are better received by the addict precisely because they come from folks who can more directly relate to the experience of being one.

Perhaps the very best thing the consistently healthy can do to help the unhealthy is to enable and empower recovering sufferers to teach and to coach. To be most effective, the consistently healthy must use their resources to magnify the voice and impact of those in recovery.

Recovering sufferers further aid those they seek to serve by validating and vouching for the lessons being taught by the consistently healthy. When a recovering sufferer vouches for the coaching and message of the healthy, they lend the latter the former’s clout and credibility, and so too magnify their voice and impact.

Working together in this manner, the consistently healthy and the recovering sufferers can have the greatest impact on the greatest numbers.

[If you want to think and see more clearly; discern more accurately; predict more reliably and live, love, and understand yourself and the world more fully; or if you just want to watch people who do; then please continue to follow me here.]