Up The Ladder of Conclusions: How Curiosity Can Bring You Back to Earth
Judgments, Assumptions and Conclusions are proven to place limits on your behavior and the behavior of others. Evaluations, by contrast, are objective in their nature, deigned to reveal what “is”, since personal bias is stripped from the equation. In my recent article Mindset Shift: Why Replacing Judgment With Evaluation is Critical, I looked at two of the mindset shifts necessary to achieve the appropriate objectivity for releasing judgment in your career and in life, letting freedom of choice prevail.
This time around, let’s take the concept one step farther and examine how making judgments and assumptions drags us up the ladder of conclusions to potentially further divide us, and how employing Curiosity and Courageous Conversations can reground you, putting you back into synchronicity with colleagues.
A Foreseeable Outcome
Once you’ve judged and made assumptions, the conclusions you draw may very well be erroneous. This happens in all communicative situations, from reading email to how a colleague greets you (or ignores you). To be invested in building healthy 21st century workplace relationships that will result in more creative solutions and innovative approaches to challenges, consider each conclusion you come to as another inflection point at which you can take the opportunity to instead become curious.
A Look Inside Your Mind
Your unconscious is in high gear throughout the day. At any moment, you could become influenced by your thoughts, feelings, beliefs, biases, assumptions, judgments and/or intuitions. You’ll come to different conclusions when you think someone is out to get you vs when you feel a connection to that person. You may even tend to draw gut conclusions when a decision is eminent, and you certainly weigh things differently when you’re hungry vs well-nourished (There was a fascinating study from Israel which demonstrated that prisoners are more likely to be granted parole if their hearing occurs after the judge has had a lunch break!)
This unconscious thought process, however, is challenging because it requires knowing that you’re going “up a ladder” of conclusions as your mind plods on without your consciousness having an influence.
Connecting The Dots
Your mind also has an eerie way of conveniently playing tricks on you by “connecting the dots”— those tempting little facts and details that make a story or logic fit neatly with your conclusions. Similarly to how the brain remembers history inaccurately, it also has a habit of making “facts” match a situation. Rest assured you’re not being devious; this is simply how the mind works.
Often when we are actively “listening” to the details a story, we’re actually jumping to conclusions, one after another. In order to truly understand, or “stand under” someone’s reality, it’s essential to actively follow along with the speaker’s words. It means staying curious, which is hard to do. Practice with friends and family, and be prepared to show yourself some compassion in the process. Read this mind-opening passage to get some perspective before you dive in.
The Pull of Negativity Bias
Imagine walking down the street and seeing someone you know walking toward you. You wave “Hello”. There’s no response. Notice your response to the lack of response. How about your body? Your feelings? What story are you telling yourself in the moment?
If you imagine the worst in these types of situations, you’re not alone. A simple (but not easy) shift to save yourself from dispatching a fleet of false conclusions is to say to yourself, “I wonder what’s going on in their head?”. Make it not about you, but about them.
Why It’s BAD to Jump to Conclusions
We don’t often think of jumping to conclusions as dangerous, but we are foolish not to, since the conclusions you draw affect your behaviors. In respect to interactions, jumping to conclusions can prevent you from building trust with others, since your opinion of the other’s trustworthiness is based on your bias or emotions. Additionally, your ability to assess thoughtfully and make appropriate decisions is challenging, if not impossible, when you’re beginning with faulty “facts”.
The Zoom Out
The antidote to drawing conclusions is to zoom out to gain PERSPECTIVE of the issue. You’ll gain the valuable Beginner’s Mindset when you extract yourself from a familiar situation and pretend not to know anything about it. You can listen to learn, rather than assess. This is helpful when you find yourself resisting what someone else is saying, and turn that resistance into active listening, avoiding fog of conclusions.
And regarding your forgone conclusions, you can also ask yourself, “What if the opposite were true?”. When you consider “the opposite”, great clarity and creativity are possible. And finally, a self-check is in order when you find yourself making assumptions. I call it zooming in on your blind spots, your biases and your beliefs.
This transformation is a slow and gradual process. When you catch yourself in that judgmental state (remaining curious, even appreciative), remember also to give yourself a mental fist pump and a “way to go!”. You’ll be saluting to your ability to improve relationships, trust, communication and better solutions.
In my follow-up article, I’ll provide you with additional external resources for releasing judgment, assumptions and conclusions. Then in November, it’s time to Release the Need to Please!
If you enjoy what you’re reading and are considering living life more fully, schedule a complimentary consultative session with DRIVEN HERE.