laddersofinference.jpgHave you ever been accused of jumping to the wrong conclusion? In this fast paced world, we are asked to react quickly, rather than spend time reasoning and think through the facts.  How we make decisions, view and understand situations has more to do with us- our beliefs, past experiences, our mental models- than the situation itself. We take in information selectively, make assumptions, and draw conclusions based on our past experiences and beliefs. And in a blink of an eye we draw conclusions and make decisions….. and sometimes it is the wrong decision.  
The process described above is called the Ladder of Inference by Harvard  scholar Chris Argyris. It is important in life that our conclusions, actions and the decisions we make are based on reality rather than through our selective filters. Not only can can this lead us to a wrong conclusion, but it can also cause increased conflict with people who have drawn different conclusions based on the same observation. FYI: most conflict is due to assumptions and conclusions drawn through our own selective filters and data.

Top 5 Practices to Avoid Bad Judgement

1. Stop to Think
Understand that the Ladder of Inference is affecting your thinking as well as the thinking of others.  It is time to consider your reasoning.

2. Recognize the Flaw in Your Conclusions
Recognize that the conclusions you’ve drawn are based on assumptions and inferences that have been processed through your own selective filters. Are you using selective data? Are you making assumptions? Are you interpreting what something means?

3. Ask Open-ended Questions 

Ask questions not to prove a point but to gather information. Keeping in mind that there are likely gaps in your reasoning.  Ask yourself “what am I thinking” and “why am I making that decision?”

4. Transparency
Work to make your thinking and intentions transparent to others. Ask others to do the same.  Explain your reasoning, to anther person, check to see if your reasoning is sound.

5.  Listen More
Use reflective listening techniques to clarify information and your perceptions of the situation. Paraphrasing and clarification checking are two good listening techniques.