How often have you had an argument or a big blow up with either a spouse or a friend based on jumping to a false conclusion? If you are like me, I am sure many times. We all generally operate on the fundamental faulty assumption that people see the world the same way as ourselves. And we take this misconception into our approach to life. We confuse how we see the world with how everyone else sees the world. But everyone is different, and everyone sees the world differently and operates on very different principles. And every time we interact with anyone, we bring our history, our culture, our biases and more into play. In the case of conversations, all of this can trigger different meanings we make of a situation and influence our behaviour as we try to interpret what’s going on.
Usually, when we are jumping to conclusions, we are feeling something – anxious, stressed, angry, afraid, cornered, humiliated or any other negative emotion. This puts our body into the fight-flight stress response, and the only part of our brain that is really operational at this point is our lizard brain or amygdala. Now our amygdala, is only really capable of detecting fear and preparing for emergency events – it is scanning the environment to see if we are safe. It is not around or available for those higher order processes, like reasoning, debating, weighing up pros and cons, thinking of consequences. The kind of thinking needed when we are in the situation when we are jumping to conclusions.
So when we slip into the mind-reading mode, our go-to thoughts are that others are negatively judging us and finding fault with us
Jumping to a conclusion is commonly labelled as a cognitive distortion, and is a habitual and faulty way of thinking. It usually occurs in one of two ways. Either mind-reading or fortune-telling. So when we slip into the mind-reading mode, our go-to thoughts are that others are negatively judging us and finding fault with us. In the fortune-telling mode, we are predicting the future outcome of a situation by deciding or predicting that a situation will not turn out favourably long before the event has even occurred. Now as you read this I am sure you are thinking this is ridiculous, why would we ever do this? The reality is that we do, far more often than we intend to, and often with not very positive outcomes.
STOP, PAUSE, and REMIND yourself that you are jumping to a conclusion
The next time you are aware that you are slipping into one or other of these two modes, STOP, PAUSE, and REMIND yourself that you are jumping to a conclusion. Ask yourself a simple question, are my thoughts true? Is there valid evidence for my belief?
Remember, we often make hasty judgments and reactions. By taking a moment to pause, you can take a step back out of the situation and clear your head. Don’t react with generalisations and assumptions based on prior experience and history. You have a choice. Try and open yourself up to new learning, new information, and BE PRESENT.