Jumping to Conclusions: Cognitive Distortion 4


Jumping to Conclusions… One of the best Office Space scenes…

Tom Smykowski: It was a “Jump to Conclusions” mat. You see, it would be this mat that you would put on the floor… and would have different CONCLUSIONS written on it that you could JUMP TO.

Michael Bolton: That’s the worst idea I’ve ever heard in my life, Tom.

Samir: Yes, this is horrible, this idea.


Jump to Conclusions Mat
Jump to Conclusions Mat

Jumping to conclusions – definition:

Without individuals saying so, we know what they are feeling and why they act the way they do. In particular, we are able to determine how people are feeling toward us.

For example, a person may conclude that someone is reacting negatively toward them but doesn’t actually bother to find out if they are correct. Another example is a person may anticipate that things will turn out badly and will feel convinced that their prediction is already an established fact.


We all jump to conclusions all the time.

We need to draw conclusions to recognize patterns in order to survive. Traffic rules, basic manners and social customs serve us on a superficial level.

The problem is when we jump to negative conclusions without enough information. She doesn’t like me because she didn’t say hi in the hall. He thinks I’m dumb because he pointed out a mistake in my work. She talks negatively about others behind their back, so she must be bad mouthing me behind my back.


Here’s a story to illustrate the point.

Jackie was in a rush and didn’t notice Regina on her way through the building. Normally, Jackie would stop and chit chat with Regina, but on this particular day, Jackie was on a mission. Regina took the slight personally, she jumped to the conclusion that Jackie was mad at her for something.

Regina searched her memory for previous slights or wrongs she may have committed against Jackie. As the day wore on, Regina had invented reasons that Jackie could be mad at her and got mad at Jackie herself.

The best defense is a good offence, so if Jackie was going to hold a grudge, Regina could too. There was this time last week when Jackie had been careless and forgotten a critical part of her job. Regina had covered, no big deal. Now it seemed like a very big deal.

Jackie was always taking, she was a taker. Regina was tired of it. She was done being Jackie’s punching bag. Regina always listened to Jackie complain on and on about every little thing. What was Jackie saying behind her back now? Regina couldn’t stand for it. She had to confront Jackie.

The next morning when Jackie arrived, Regina went straight to her and started talking. Immediately, Jackie apologized for yesterday’s rudeness. She had been on a tight deadline and hadn’t even realized that she snubbed Regina until hours later. She truthfully expressed regret over her rudeness and said she’d do better in the future.


This story ends well, but how many times have these small slights turned into big grudges?

Someone is distracted and misses the social cues from someone else, so doesn’t say hi back. It’s no big deal, but it’s a huge deal. The slighted individual wonders what they did wrong? They jump to all kinds of conclusions about themselves and their relationship with the other person.

The problem is, we can’t control other people. We can’t make them notice us all the time or have everyone respond the way we desire.

What we can control is our own reaction.

We can realize that everyone else is just as stressed / overworked / tired / dealing with their own crap as we are. Everyone is so focused on their own stuff, that any personal slight is rarely about us.

If you do have an actual issue, you should try to work it out.

If you’re trying to figure out a vaguely negative interaction with another human, try to stick to the facts. Don’t invent reasons (jump to conclusions) to be mad.

If the person is truly a negative influence in your life, minimize your contact with them. Otherwise, work on building up other people in your life.

We tend to look at our own actions with rose-colored glasses and everyone else with a critical eye.

Turn that around. If you want a lasting relationship with someone, look at them through rose-colored glasses. Criticize your own thoughtlessness / inclusivity / manners. Demand higher standards of yourself. Avoid individuals who haven’t got a clue. Chose people to believe in and give them the benefit of the doubt. Stop jumping to conclusions, stick to the facts and see how much less mental energy you spend worrying about other’s opinions of you. In the end, you can’t control their opinions anyway, so work on what you can and forget the rest.


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