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Jumping to conclusions: the inference-observation confusion - Ness Labs

Good intentions

Jumping to conclusions often comes from our desire to sound compassionate and invested in what someone is telling us.

We may comment by saying "wow", or "what a shame" when we really have no idea how the person wants us to feel. Instead of sounding supportive, we may come across as dismissive.

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Jumping into Conclusions
Jumping to conclusions is a common phenomenon, where people prematurely decide and finalize something, without having sufficient information or choosing not to consider it.
Jumping into Conclusions: Examples
  • Inference-observation confusion: An assumption made that may or may not be correct. Example: Concluding that a guy is rich, based on the car he drives.
  • Fortune-Telling: Assumption of knowing exactly what will happen in the future.
  • Mind Reading: Assuming based on how to have read someone's mind and concluded something which may not be true.
  • Extreme Extrapolation: Finding a minor clue and making something major out of it.
  • Overgeneralization: Copy-pasting a piece of knowledge over something that you think is related, but is not.
  • Labeling: Stereotyping a set of people based on their likes and dislikes.
Why We Jump to Conclusions

The reason people jump to conclusions is the fact that they find it easy.

Fact-checking and 100 percent accuracy on everything they see or observe consume way too much time for a normal person.

Taking mental shortcuts is the path most people choose to jump to conclusions.

Jumping Into Conclusions
Jumping Into Conclusions

It is a form of cognitive distortion which generally gravitates towards the negative. This happens without any justifiable cause or reason and is not based on any fact.

It ...

Two Types Of Cognitive Distortion
  1. Fortune Telling: When one believes that the negative outcome is already a confirmed fact. The baseless assumptions are a reality inside the mind of a fortune teller. In most cases, things that seem to be a big worry have nothing to do with reality.
  2. Mind Reading: Instead of focusing on probable bad situations, a mind reader creates unverified negative assumptions about people. These can be about people not respecting you, or about not getting acceptance from someone.
Why People Visit Fortune Tellers

The basic psychology about visiting a fortune teller is that the mind is cognitively distorted and needs reassurance. When a fortune teller tells you that everything is going to be ok, the negative thoughts start to diminish.

Remote work and the lack of context around communication
Remote work and the lack of context around communication

Virtual communication often lacks the nonverbal clues we notice with in-person conversations.

To compensate, we often make assumptions or jump to conclusions that can cause harm to our work...

Virtual communication: how to avoid misunderstandings

Instead of acting on your assumptions, go to the facts. Understanding the individual styles of employees can also give interactions more context and help avoid misunderstandings.

  • Prioristizers are logical, analytical, and data-oriented people who focus on goals and outcomes. They don't like to engage in chitchat.
  • Planners thrive with structure, planning, and talking about the details. They often communicate in bullet points and numbers.
  • Arrangers are supportive, relationship-driven team members who work best when they form connections.
  • Visualizers are big-picture thinkers who want minimal details. They will often email at the last minute, and apologize for short deadlines.
Virtual work: adjust your communication and expectations

To avoid unnecessary conflict, it is essential to understand the nuances of colleagues and how they work.

Accept that others may not work and communicate the same way you do. If you see someone looking to the side during a video conference, instead of thinking they are not paying attention, understand that they may really be taking notes. Another person may want to spend time on a connection before they engage with the content.