Okay, let’s be honest. How many of us have jumped to conclusions or attempted to mind read another person’s thoughts? What was the result? We may have caused embarrassment, made an unwise decision, or damaged a working relationship. But, for some reason, we think we’ve got it all figured out when things happen to us.
In the book “The Resilience Factor: 7 Essential Skills for Overcoming Life’s Inevitable Obstacles,” the authors, Andrew Shatte and Karen Reivich, point out the one skill to boost your resilience (how we respond to what happens to us) is to avoid “thinking traps.”
They define thinking traps as “overly rigid patterns in thinking that can cause us to miss critical information about a situation or individual.” One way to avoid these traps is “by identifying the pattern you fall into and asking critical questions to identify important information that you missed.”
Here are two of several “thinking traps” they discuss and ways to avoid them.
1. Jumping to Conclusions: Believing one is certain about a situation despite having little or no evidence to support it. Ouch! We’ve all done this. So, how to avoid this trap?
- Slow down and ask, “What is the evidence for and against my thoughts?”
- To “slow down” is a mindfulness practice that allows us to pause in the midst of a situation and remain alert to choose how to respond.
2. Them, Them, Them: Believing that other people or circumstances are the cause of every problem that you encounter. Oh my, this is when we play the “victim” or “blame” game. So, how to avoid this trap?
- Look inward and ask, “How did I contribute to this problem?”
- To look “inward” is a mindfulness practice of being self-aware (in both mind and heart) and taking ownership of what’s happening outside of you and inside of you.
Our ability to respond to unexpected challenges and conflicts is a critical skill to be learned. Asking ourselves insightful questions, learning mindfulness practices, and using our emotional intelligence are tools that teach us how to move from being impulsive to responsive. And when we do, we can focus on the things we can control rather than those we cannot.
(Content also adapted from “The resilience inventory: Seven essential skills for overcoming life’s obstacles and determining happiness” by Rachel Jackson & Chris Watkin, Hay Group, Selection & Development Review, Vol. 20, No. 6, December 2004)