The next in our series on Thought Distortions is Jumping to Conclusions.
The first part of Jumping to Conclusions is mind reading, or imagining we know what others are thinking. It’s assuming the negative about others’ thoughts and behaviors without any proof. Mind reading is believing you know other people’s thoughts and even their feelings in a situation, and why they are acting the way they are.
For example, you finish a report on which you have worked very hard for school or work, and your friend tells you they think it looks great. You might mind read and think they are lying even though there is no evidence to suggest it. It can put friends and family members on the defense emotionally. They might become afraid that what they will say or do will offend the Mind Reader. (If I do that, my friend will think I am mad at them.)
This thought distortion can become a self-fulfilling prophecy where the Mind Reader’s lack of trust and inconsistent behavior will affect relationships negatively and may end a healthy relationship. Here are some examples of mind reading:
That person doesn’t like me because of what I’m wearing.
They must be mad at me (without asking them if they are).
They don’t trust my opinion, because I don’t have a college degree like they do.
The second part of Jumping to Conclusions is fortune telling, or predicting the future. Right away you assume a situation will not end well, again, without any proof. Even though things may normally run smoothly, you predict negativity and chaos. These predictions are unrealistic and a person can fall into a pattern of defeat before even trying something.
For example, you might avoid going to an event or gathering because you don’t think you will have fun, despite attending the same one before and enjoying yourself.
Why do people form a habit of jumping to conclusions?
People can build an inflated sense of awareness or intuition. Or they might have had someone repeatedly betray their trust in the past, which now causes them to jump to conclusions to prepare themselves for danger so they don’t get hurt again, regardless of whether any proof of danger exists.
It’s important to remember that just because someone broke your trust in the past it does not mean everyone will continue this pattern. Keep an open mind and consider all evidence in the situation. To avoid fortune telling, try to imagine positive scenarios playing out as well and balance them with the negative ones that come automatically to you. As tempting as this thought distortion might be to try to protect yourself, you cannot know what everyone is thinking and how all situations will play out.