Breaking Down Negative Thought Patterns: Jumping to Conclusions
I have had the habit of reading too much into situations and jumping to conclusions. If I believed it to be true, because I felt it to be true, therefore it must be true, right? Boy was I wrong.
Today I will share how to stop jumping to conclusions using a simple worksheet and asking yourself some important questions. With this worksheet you can observe negative thought patterns that are serving you.
Instead of jumping to negative conclusions, we feel to be true, we can decide to look at situations constructively. We can choose a way to think about the situation that is empowering. By choosing a more constructive way to look at the situation we can break our patterns of thinking, choose to learn from it and manage our emotions.
What does ‘Jumping to Conclusions’ mean?
Jumping to negative conclusions is a form of negative thought pattern, or cognitive distortion, in which someone makes up their own conclusion about a situation without enough information. Two of the negative thought patterns associated with jumping to negative conclusions include:
- Fortune Telling – Assuming you know exactly what will happen in the future.
- Mind Reading – Assuming you know exactly what someone else is thinking.
You can read more about different types of negative thought patterns in this post here.
What is an Example of Jumping to Conclusions?
So, let’s say that you invited some friends over for dinner. You choose to make your family’s favorite dish. You haven’t made it for others yet, and curious how they will like it. During dinner, you are curiously awaiting some feedback, but your company doesn’t say anything. The conclusion you jump to: ‘They must not have liked dinner. I am a bad cook.’
If you struggle with this type of thinking, you may even go on a negative spiral of all the possible thoughts that will support your conclusion.
Maybe you don’t identify with that particular scenario, but if you’ve ever found yourself jumping to conclusions, I am sure you will find the worksheet valuable as you can apply it to work out a variety of situations.
Why is Jumping to Conclusions Bad?
Sometimes we choose to jump to negative conclusions because it can be an easy way out of the responsibility it would take to change. In the end, we are left disappointed in ourselves, perhaps beating ourselves up, and it can affect how we feel going forward in the day. We can even get stuck in these poor thinking habits that can go on for years or perhaps a lifetime.
According to Psychology Today, ‘Jumping to conclusions can not only interfere with your relationships but if it is a severe enough pattern, it can also be harmful to an individual’s mental health.’
Perhaps the thought ‘They must not have liked dinner. I am a bad cook.’ has a negative impact on your mood for the night. Maybe you are distant with the family after the company leaves. If you beat yourself up enough, you might even find yourself having a more difficult time choosing what to cook the next time you have company for dinner. Repeat the pattern often enough, and maybe you start to avoid inviting others over altogether.
How do I stop jumping to negative conclusions?
The answer is simple: change your thoughts.
It’s not as easy as it sounds, and here is why: Our brains love patterns, so if you are in the habit of jumping to conclusions, your brain will give you a run for your money as you try to make changes. That is why it is so hard to stop making the same mistakes.
If you have the pattern of jumping to conclusions, you will need to challenge your brain. There are a few questions you can ask yourself to challenge and slowly rewire the way you think. And by changing the way you think, you will have the power to influence your emotions and essentially how you show up to similar events in the future.
Maybe you are thinking, but I don’t want to change my thoughts. Wouldn’t that just be lying to myself?
Here are 4 facts about Thoughts:
- Thoughts are not always true.
- Thoughts are not facts.
- Thoughts can be subjective.
- Thoughts can be biased by past experiences or by what we hear, read, or see.
Sokol, L., & Fox, M. G. (2020). The Comprehensive Clinician’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. PESI.
That’s what the ‘jumping to conclusions’ worksheet rooted in CBT strategies is going to do. It will point out just that. You might see that you are holding truths to thoughts when you simply have no evidence for them. And that these thoughts are affecting how you feel, leaving you disempowered, sad, angry, etc. And with that feeling, you might find that you are repeating a behavior that does not serve you and doesn’t represent your best self.
The thoughts we choose to think will have an impact on our feelings which essentially impacts the next action we take.
So, let’s take the ‘I am a bad cook’ example and run with it for the jumping to conclusions worksheet.
What Really Happened?
The first thing you want to do is to lay out what exactly happened. Only state the facts. If you have the tendency to jump to negative conclusions you might see yourself struggling with this step as you uncover the bare bones of what happened.
I invited friends over for dinner. No one said anything about dinner.
What is the Thought?
Now, this is where you can say how you interpreted the situation. What was happening in your eyes? What does that mean to you?
My friends didn’t compliment the dinner because they didn’t like it. They think I am a bad cook.
What is the Feeling?
With that kind of interpretation, you can imagine you wouldn’t be feeling too great.
What is the behavior?
For the rest of the night, you might be distant, dwelling on what you could have done better. In your insecurity, perhaps you seek out compliments from your own family.
Challenge That Thought:
Ask yourself, Is it 100% true?
I don’t know if they liked it or not, because no one said anything.
What evidence stands against it?
My family loves the dish and asks for it every week and gets second helpings.
Is there another possibility?
We were talking the whole time. Perhaps they forgot. And why do I think they should? Sometimes I forget to compliment others, just because it gets busy and I’m enjoying myself.
Am I using an unhelpful thinking pattern?
Filtering- I am not looking at the positive aspects of what happened this evening.
Emotional Reasoning – I feel that way, therefore it must be true.
Mind Reading-She didn’t say anything so she must not like dinner.
Am I self-sabotaging?
Thinking I am a bad cook, sounds like I am undercutting myself. Overall, I would consider myself a good cook. I did a good job preparing the meal as the recipe suggested. My cooking skills are just fine.
How can I look at this situation in a positive way?
Everyone was enjoying themselves and had a great time. My kids even went for seconds.
Take it a Step Further:
What is the new thought that will help me show up as my best self?
I am a good cook and a good host.
What is a thought that will foster the emotions you want to feel about the situation? An empowering thought that lets you remain in control?
My family enjoys this meal. I think it is delicious and I picked it because it is one of my favorites, plus it’s easy to cook.
Now, this is a thought that is empowering. Think of the reasons you chose to make the dish in the first place and support yourself and choose to be confident in your decision. Even if your guests were not a fan of your meal, it still would be jumping to conclusions to think you were a bad cook. It could be because they have different tastes and don’t like a particular ingredient which has nothing to do with your cooking skills.
Wrapping Up: How to Stop Jumping to Conclusions for Negative Thinkers
If you are in the habit of jumping to conclusions, it can be beneficial to break this pattern of thinking by challenging your thoughts. This can be a powerful way to challenge many a variety of negative thought patterns as well. Jumping to conclusions can negatively impact your relationships and your mental health. By challenging your thinking, you can stop going on a negative spiral that will lead to negative feelings and disappointment. Replace your thoughts with empowering ones, that can help you have a positive outlook and change your negative thought patterns for good!