Othello’s Error often happens in police interrogation rooms and principal’s offices.
It comes from Shakespeare’s play, “Othello.” In the play, the main character, Othello, assumes that his wife, Desdemona, is having an affair. The reason he believes this is because of her nervous response when he questions her.
In reality, Desdemona is innocent.
However, Othello questions her in a aggressive and volatile manner. And this makes the poor wife nervous. Even worse, Othello takes her nervousness as a sign of guilt.
Sadly, his often occurs in real life.
Often, targets become nervous when someone questions them aggressively. The questioner then misreads the response. taking it as a sign that the person is lying or hiding something. It’s how so many people have gotten blamed for something they didn’t do.
Just as nervousness is mistaken for deception, the show of confidence is mistaken for honesty and trustworthiness. As we all know, bullies are well-known for feigned confidence and false bravado.
Targets of bullying are always nervous, and rightfully so. Who wouldn’t be if they were constantly abused, shamed, threatened, and attacked?
People tend to rush to the first possible explanation that fits what they want to see. Should it be any wonder why people blame targets and let bullies go scot-free?
After the abuse goes on for so long, targets learn to expect more of the same. And they usually get it. In other words, the expectation of such treatment brings more of the same. As a result, the target grows more nervous with each occurrence.
As the target grows more nervous, bystanders and authorities grow more and more suspicious of him.
The fact is that nervousness has several reasons, and the mistake often occurs in the decoding of it and not the observation!
With knowledge comes empowerment!