Jumping to Conclusions

Simply put, perspective is “the way you see something.”  If you think being a responsive co-worker means answering e-mail 24/7, when someone does not respond to your 2am email until 8am, your perspective is the person is not responsive.  What this may really mean is that you need to create and respect boundaries!  That however, is not the focus on this blog.

Chris Argyris of the Harvard Business School explains perspective with the “ladder of inference.”  Here is how we move up the ladder:

  • First rung:  We make observations about the world around us
  • Second rung:  We “select data” from what we observe
  • Third rung:  We assign or add meaning (cultural and personal) to this data
  • Fourth rung:  We make assumptions based on the meanings we add
  • Fifth rung:  We draw conclusions
  • Sixth rung:  We adopt beliefs based on these conclusions
  • Top rung:  We take action based on these conclusions

It seems most of us are climbing this ladder all day long!  We live in a time where we make snap judgments about a person based on one action we might observe. Rather than get curious about why a person took a particular action, we immediately jump to conclusions and make quick judgments.

Whether this is showing up for us in many of our relationships, or maybe just one “difficult relationship,” we may benefit more by asking ourselves the following questions:

  • Why did this individual behave this way, or take this approach?
  • What assumptions may I be making about this?
  • What actual data am I relying on to reach my conclusion?
  • What else might I need to learn to understand this situation or person better?

Maybe instead of “jumping” to conclusions we might first stand still and ponder this.  We all know the old saying about making assumptions!  Only when we get curious do we open ourselves up to new perspectives.