Second Guessing, Jumping to Conclusions and Filling in the Blanks


Posted by Jill Whalen | Posted in Psychology, Relationships, Thought | Posted on 11-02-2016

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…Or How we Create our Unique Personal Reality

[Jill’s Note: If you prefer to listen rather than read, please scroll to the bottom of this post for the audio version.]
Jumping to Conclusions and Filling in the Blanks

What would you do if you found out that everything you think about life, other people and even yourself is at best, a good guess?

As human beings, that’s exactly how we operate.

Ponder this…

Have you ever thought someone was mad at you, didn’t like you anymore, and/or was never going to speak to you again?

While it might be true, it also might not.

Most likely it was nothing more than a “best guess” based on your past experiences and how YOU might act in a similar situation. But others don’t think the same way you do, nor do they always behave predictably.

In other words, we never really know what’s going on with other people. All we can do is fill in the blanks with our theories and draw some conclusions accordingly.

In fact, every moment of our life is made up of assumptions and guesses.

When someone does or says X it doesn’t automatically mean that Y will happen–even if it has 1 million times before.

How many times have you created a story in your head of what others are thinking? Or how many times have you worried about what might happen in the future, only to find out you were completely wrong? e.g., They weren’t really mad at you; They weren’t in a devastating car crash; They didn’t do that thing you thought they were going to do.

The fact that we’ve been mistaken in the past shows us how easy it is to misinterpret (or completely make up) what’s happening in life. Yet we generally don’t even notice it. We get so invested in “our truth” of the situation that we hold onto it, often despite evidence to the contrary.  “They were mad but got over it.” “They are just pretending they’re not mad.” etc.

But do we ever really know what’s going on in anyone’s head?

All we can do is fill in the blanks with our best guesses. So that’s what we do–every moment of the day.

Unfortunately, this leads to self-fulfilling prophecies.

In other words…

We see and hear the bits of information around us that fit what we already believe.

To illustrate, let’s take a made-up scenario of a divorced husband and wife. Let’s say the husband knows his ex-wife hangs out with many of their mutual friends on a regular basis. In his mind, he may decide (through assumptions) that his old friends have now “sided” with his ex and no longer like him. While none of them have ever actually told him this, he is likely to act differently when he sees them. So much so that his friends may wonder why he’s being so “weird.” Thus confirming his “made-up beliefs.” He thought they didn’t like him, and now they don’t.

And so, we come full circle.

The thing is, the situation could have played out differently if he never jumped to conclusions in the first place. If he simply acted “normally” (the way he always used to), they may have all remained friends.

So how do we stop filling in the blanks?

In the scenario above, it’s easy to see how simply keeping an open mind rather than making assumptions and jumping to conclusions may have transformed the situation.

When we realize what we’re doing, i.e., making up life as we go along, we can change the story mid-stream. What if instead of assuming the worst in people and in life, we assume the best?

That alone has transformative powers.

Seeing people as they truly are–not as we think they are is the key.

This of course is easier said than done. It’s natural for us to form images and beliefs of the people in our lives. And it’s easy to think those images are WHO they are and fixed in stone. But until we realize their made-up, illusory nature, i.e., that they’re thoughts and not reality, we’re never going to get it exactly right. We’ll continue to innocently create conflict and confusion for ourselves and those around us.

What I personally try to do since understanding this is to see the people in my life with new eyes. The less I jump to conclusions and make (wrong) assumptions about them, the better my relationships become. It’s actually pretty magical when people and situations seem to transform right before my eyes!

How about you? Have you ever tried to see the people around you with fresh eyes? Give it a try this week and let me know how it goes!


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CONTACT JILL WHALEN to learn how she may help you be the best you can be.

Jill is the author of Victim of Thought: Seeing Through the Illusion of Anxiety

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For the past 20 years, Jill has consulted with companies big and small, and spoken at conferences all over the world. She is currently a transformational speaker and mentor to businesses, individuals, coaches, leaders, groups and organizations. She helps them uncover their natural well-being and happiness so that they can operate from a clearer state of mind and take their lives and businesses to a higher level.

Jill's blog, What Did You Do With Jill? is a personal account of what she's learned throughout her transformational journey. Jill has many "viral" articles on LinkedIn and is a contributing writer for P.S. I Love You.

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Leave Your Thoughts Below(4)

Oh Jill that was right on time . Sometimes things are not the the way they look. In fact you think you seen something and it really wasn’t way you seen it or thought. We need to think before we speak. The bible says be quick to listen slow to speak and slow to anger. Way to go Jill and good point.

Thanks, Sabrina. I’m glad these always seem to ring true to you!

Great read and idea. I am always doing that thanks for the reminder!

Thanks, Wendi! It’s tough not to do it. 🙂