I’ll bet you’ve already assumed from the title that I feel negatively about the idea of jumping to conclusions. If so, you’d be right, and this is one of the very few instances where you jumping to a conclusion actually turned out okay.
I live life with a short list of overall objectives. These are just things that seem right, moral, and loving. One item on that list is that I give everyone the benefit of the doubt, which releases them from any judgement they may not be able to defend against. I will never judge someone based on how another person or group of people views his or her life. Jumping to conclusions about a person, attacking them consciously and avoid their influence in your life, is really an ineffective strategy for showing love, which is of particular importance to me. And while it may be natural to annihilate any influence that may run counter to your worldview, I feel it really only shown an underlying lack of confidence in your own paradigm.
And really, most of the time things are not as they seem. A person may not be a threat to you, instead he or she may just be shy or hold surface-level contradictory beliefs. To jump to a conclusion at this point is to rid yourself of an opportunity to improve another, and to find an improvement in yourself through them. As humbling as it is, you and I and every person on Earth are a constant work-in-progress, needing improvement through the relationships we develop. It is those relationships where jumping to conclusions becomes the most dangerous. Much like the stereotypical shark we all envision after watching Jaws, conclusions lurk under the surface, ready to kill as soon as they smell blood. They destroy good relationships more than anything else. Accusations of jealousy and cheating, of course, are the most obvious example.
So let’s consider three ways we can intentionally avoid the dreaded conclusion jump. I don’t know how you live your life, so I don’t know for sure what situations you’re most prone to jump to conclusions. Workplace, grades, friendships, romantic relationships, cheating… they’re all possibilities. But one thing I know for sure is that it will not seem natural at first. Shields will raise. Sparks will fly. This blog post will seem idiotic.
1. Consider All Possible Alternatives.
Don’t just go hot-headed into a situation. People have a habit of automatically assuming the worst possible scenario. This can lead to a world of unanswered worry and anxiety because statistically the worst possible thing in the world will not happen. Now, granted, people who tend to have a history of bad things happening to them will be conditioned to assume the worst, and for good reason, but it’s still important to be objective. Your life is not just a series of events out to get specifically you. Life is an ensemble cast, and the story will never specifically revolve around you as the solo protagonist. Perspective is your greatest ally.
This is also probably a good time to address cheating. You’re boyfriend is probably not cheating on you every time he takes longer than ten minutes to text you back. Your girlfriend isn’t cheating on you every time she discusses a conversation she had with a mildly attractive guy. It’s natural to feel a twinge of jealousy, but acting on that jealousy (i.e. checking her text messages/his Facebook messenger) can lead to a world of relationship problems. Just communicate. If you suspect something, just talk about it in a low pressure situation. I promise everything will be okay.
2. Only Use Firsthand Information.
You know that history report you wrote back in high school/college? You know how you were only allowed to use primary sources – that is, information only from people who actually there at the event in question. Yeah, it works the same way when you’re jumping to conclusions.
I know you trust your friends, but they too can be blinded by emotions. Friends are there to listen, but be aware of friends who employed full-time at the rumor mill. Some of them naturally want life to be a little more exciting than it is, and will stir the pot to make sure that happens. Train yourself to only be concerned about something if you have direct evidence of something. And then train yourself to look past the things you do not know for sure. After all, people do make mistakes.
3. Communication is Key.
If a person is subject to a rumor or a perceived issue, the solution is quite simple. Just talk to that person. The worst that he or she could do is blow you off. And in my experience, that honestly almost never happens. So, make yourself immune to gossip and speculation by simply conversing with the person in question.
What I’ve found is that you can talk to almost anyone about almost anything. All you have to do is approach the conversation in the correct way. Use a gentle touch, select your words carefully, and everything will turn out okay. These recent cultural taboos against communication about particular topics are generally unfounded. I’ve found they’ve manifested themselves because we’re out of practice communicating face-to-face. We’ve got so many modes of electronic communication that actually talking to people, truly getting to the truth of the matter efficiently, seems old fashioned. But hey, maybe that’s just the communication major side of me talking.
We’re not going to prevent people from jumping to conclusions. But as with every other topic I write about, my goal is to make the world a better place. And if I can help even just a few people see the whole situation with objectivity, well, I’m doing my job.