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Jumping to conclusions is a thinking distortion. It’s when we make assumptions or judgements without knowing all the facts. There are typically two ways that we do this: mind-reading and fortune telling.
And the reason we jump to conclusions is because we like to have information. We need it to make decisions and it helps us to feel comfortable and in control. But we don’t always have all of the information that we want.
Think of it like when you order something on-line, and even though it’s 2 day shipping you still look for it the moments after you order it. Just like you want that product, your brain wants information asap.
We’re in an information driven society which only encourages this want. So if we don’t have the information, we create it ourselves. And unfortunately, usually the information we create is negative.
With mind-reading we assume people are thinking negatively about us and with fortune telling we assume something bad is likely to happen.
Example of Mind-Reading
Mind reading is thinking you know what’s going on in some else’s mind. An example would be if you have a big presentation (or maybe a small one) and you’re not feeling so confident. So before you even start, you think no one is going to like it.
You could think this consciously or unconsciously. So you could literally tell yourself with your inner voice: “no one is going to like this.” Or you could feel anxious, upset, or like you need a drink, because you’re stressed and unconsciously thinking no one is going to like your presentation.
Consciously or unconsciously, these thoughts are directing your emotions which lead to your actions and therefore your results
When it’s time to give your presentation, and you’re already not feeling so confident, you might mind-read. And in this case, mind-reading would be thoughts that people don’t like the presentation. Or they think you aren’t qualified, or they don’t care, or that the presentation is bombing or boring.
And you might even search and hyper focus on clues to fulfill your mind-reading. So if someone yawns or maybe makes a weird face (which is actually them holding in a fart) you might think that’s evidence proving that you’re right.
But there’s no way to know what people are thinking. You can get some info from their non-verbal communication. But with mind-reading your ability to read and interpret communication is skewed. So you likely assume people are thinking negative things about you.
Example of Fortune Telling
Fortune telling is when you predict the outcome of a situation before the situation unfolds. This could be collective, so you could think that every relationship you have is going to fail. Or you could think that “no one” is going to want to hire you. Or that all of your interviews are going to be a bust.
Or, it could be as simple as thinking that something bad is going to happen, when you have no reason to think that way.
It’s very important to appreciate the good times, because as the saying goes, “this too shall pass.” And if you’re fortune telling, assuming things are going to go bad, then your likely not appreciating the good.
There’s also something to be said about intuition here. Intuitively, aka our gut instinct, we’re pretty solid, and our intuition tells us some very valuable things. But when we fortune tell we ignore that intuition. Think of it like a shitty wifi connection. We’re slowing down the connection of our intuition (our gut) to our conscious mind.
How To Stop Jumping to Conclusions
Simply knowing about the bad thinking habit will help remove some of its power. So what you want to do is think about the examples we just went through. Let them settle and sink in.
Do you see any connections?
Does anything ring a bell?
What situations in your life have you predicted something or mind-read?
How did that work out?
Do you automatically assume people have negative intentions?
How could your life be better if you stop jumping to conclusions?
How could you create healthier thinking patterns?
What can you do to give people the benefit of the doubt?
I used to mind-read constantly. I assumed everyone hated me and hated my writing and hated everything that I did. They weren’t alone. I hated myself too. Thankfully, I worked through all of that. I acknowledged the bad thought habits that were holding me back and it helped me build self compassion and self-love.
Now, I just assume everyone is going to love my writing. I work hard, I deserve good results. And instead of mind-reading or jumping to conclusions, I focus my energy on strengthening my skills and being the best that I can.
Benefits of not Jumping to Conclusions
Simply put: peace and prosperity. Jumping to conclusions negatively affects your intra and inter-personal relationships. Meaning it affects how you see yourself and how you relate to others.
Since you see things from a negative lens, you are more likely to put a negative connotation and context on non-verbal communication. So you read texts and emails in a negative voice. (Example in a really funny Key and Peele skit below.)
You won’t leave any room for mistakes or humanism. And if you aren’t perfect or things don’t go the perfect way, then you’ll pressure yourself to adhere to unrealistic expectations. Life becomes rigid. You strip away self-compassion and self-love. You reduce life to a game that’s impossible to win.
If you hear someone say “I hate everyone” or “people suck” they are likely jumping to conclusions and mind reading. It’s a lonely and frustrating life. And you’re mental health and emotional wellbeing will suffer.
Not to mention you’ll be missing out on some pretty great people, including yourself.
Photo by Anni Roenkae
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