Rushing to Conclusions Can Create Bad Judgement

We all do it.  Rushing to Judgement is easy to do. We observe something, make assumptions, draw conclusions, believe in those assumptions and take action. This morning a co-worker and I were volunteering offsite and had a call to take. We agreed to take the calls from our parked cars, then afterwards we were going out for a coffee. The call started, and I had not noticed where Jeff had parked. Later on in the call, I assumed Jeff was driving, as I heard car blinkers, etc. and I wondered why he had left. As I obediently stayed in my car, as was the plan, Mollie walked by and I took a moment to rat on Jeff for breaking our deal. The call ended, however, and there was Jeff walking up to my car window. “I thought you took off,” I said. “No, been here the whole time,” Jeff responded. Harvard Business Professor Chris Argyris branded this process the Ladder of Inference, a metaphorical ladder of steps we go through as we process observations (Jeff must be driving and not sitting in his car), draw conclusions (Jeff broke the deal, that jerk) based on what we assume (he didn’t want to have coffee with me), and take action (make sure Mollie knew what Jeff did to me). There’s an inherent danger in doing this because it can create bad judgement. In this case, it did. I was wrong. So what do I mean? This process of moving up the ladder can go pretty quickly. It supposes that if we don’t take the time to collect all the data, or all of the facts, we can pretty much justify in our own minds that what we observe is true, because we believe it to be true based on our previous observations. Why did I select the data that Jeff was in his car instead of actually confirming that he had left the parking lot? Why did I assume that the blinker sound was coming from his car instead of seeing who else was on the call and could have been driving? I should have stopped myself. To avoid this selective bias, we must stop ourselves and work harder to collect more data and facts about the situation. Ask ourselves, what am I missing? Why did I only select this data to use to draw my conclusions but didn’t seek more data? These are good reminders that when we feel ourselves rushing to judgement, the more appropriate thing to do is pause and see what may be on the other side of that story. And as my mother always told me, there’s always two sides to every story. I’m interested to hear from you on this topic. Shoot me a comment/reply/DM. Here’s a 3 minute video on the topic that I’ve sent people before that is a very brief and a good overview.

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