How to Stop Jumping to Conclusions

Jumping to conclusions is a common issue for many people. When people jump to conclusions, they make unwarranted assumptions based on limited information. This type of thinking allows people to make decisions quickly, but it also means that these decisions are quite often wrong.

This article discusses some of the reasons why people tend to jump to conclusions. It also explores strategies that can help people move past this type of negative thinking pattern.

What Jumping to Conclusions Means

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Jumping to conclusions is a type of negative thinking pattern known as a cognitive distortion.  

What Is a Cognitive Distortion?

Cognitive distortions are habitual and faulty ways of thinking. They happen to everyone, but they can be particularly common among people who struggle with depression and anxiety.

Theories of cognitive therapy claim that we are what we think we are. When a person is jumping to conclusions, they are drawing negative conclusions with little or no evidence for their assumptions.  

How People Jump to Conclusions

Jumping to conclusions can occur in two ways: mind-reading and fortune-telling. These both involve making assumptions, either about what other people think or about future events.

Mind-Reading

When a person is “mind-reading,” they are assuming that others are negatively evaluating them or have bad intentions for them. This assumes that a person can tell what others are thinking without having any evidence to back up those negative assumptions.

People who engage in mind-reading assume that they know how others feel about them.

Fortune-Telling

When a person is “fortune-telling,” they are predicting a negative future outcome or deciding that situations will turn out for the worst before the situation has even occurred.

This can have a negative effect on behavior. Because people assume that the future is already foretold, they feel like there is no point in trying to change it. This has a detrimental impact on motivation and performance. 

Recap

Jumping to conclusions often happens either by making assumptions about what others think (mind-reading) or making assumptions about what will happen (fortune-telling).

Effects of Jumping to Conclusions

Jumping to conclusions can have a number of detrimental effects. For one, it can create conflicts in relationships. If you are always jumping to negative conclusions about other people, it can lead to arguments and other problems.

Another issue is that it can negatively affect how you think of yourself and contribute to feelings of anxiety. People who experience anxiety and depression sometimes jump to conclusions in ways that worsen their symptoms.

For example, when a person with anxiety assumes that other people are judging them, it causes them to feel even more anxious. If a person with depression jumps to conclusions and assumes that things will never improve, it can make their symptoms of sadness and hopelessness even worse.

Recap

Jumping to conclusions makes it difficult to see situations clearly and increases the risk of making poor decisions. This can negatively affect your relationships, hurt your confidence, and reduce motivation.

Examples of Jumping to Conclusions

In order to understand how jumping to conclusions works, it can be helpful to look at some examples of this type of thinking. A few examples of how a person may be jumping to conclusions:

  • Despite having good relationships with her coworkers, Diane believes that they don’t see her as being as smart or capable as the rest of the office. Diane was recently assigned an important project that she was excited to work on. However, she has been telling herself “They all already think I’m dumb. I just know I will make a mistake and ruin this entire project.”  
  • Aidan has a panic attack at work in front of several coworkers. He assumes that his co-workers think negatively about him because of his anxiety. He believes that he will lose his job if his employer finds out about his condition.
  • James wants to ask someone out on a date but assumes that they will say no. Because of this, he never asks.
  • Remy feels like they are going to fail their math test no matter what they do to prepare. Because they believe that failure is inevitable, they don't study and don't give their full effort during the exam.

In each of these examples, people are jumping to conclusions. They assume that they are able to know what other people are thinking or that they can predict the outcome of events.

How to Reframe Your Conclusions

Reframing how you think about situations is one way that you can minimize jumping to conclusions. Consider how some of the people in the earlier examples might use this strategy to reframe their thinking and arrive at more accurate judgments.

Reassess

In one of the earlier examples, Diane’s negative thoughts are not based on anything factual. She can choose to believe that her coworkers respect her.

What evidence does Diane have that they look down on her or that this project will fail? She can also tell herself that she will do her very best on this project and if a mistake is made, she will learn from it.  

Consider Alternatives

Aidan has learned to successfully cope with panic disorder. However, he is jumping to conclusions about what others think and the outcome of future events.

In this example, Aidan is not basing these thoughts on any facts. Rather, he is “mind-reading” with his coworkers and “fortune-telling” with the outcome of his job.

Most people are focused on their own lives. Aidan’s coworkers may be more concerned about themselves and don’t care to scrutinize Aidan’s anxiety.

Could it be possible that some of his coworkers would feel empathetic toward Aidan for the amount of stress he has been under? Can others potentially relate to Aidan’s issues with panic and anxiety?

How to Stop Jumping to Conclusions

While jumping to conclusions is an extremely common cognitive distortion, there are things that you can do to stop engaging in this type of thinking as often. Steps you can take that may help:

  • Check the facts: Start by gathering as much information as you can before you make a judgment or decision.
  • Challenge your thinking: If you find yourself making assumptions, actively challenge your conclusions. Is there another explanation that would also make sense?
  • Ask questions: Before you jump to conclusions about what another person might be thinking, try just asking. Communicating your concerns and getting a direct answer can eliminate a lot of confusion.
  • Take another perspective: Think about the situation from the point of view of an outsider. How might they interpret the situation? What information would they need in order to reach an accurate conclusion?

Recap

There are strategies you can use to help stop jumping to conclusions. Getting all the facts, challenging your assumptions, asking questions, and shifting your perspective can all be helpful ways to improve your thinking.

A Word From Verywell

When you find yourself mind-reading and fortune-telling, remind yourself that you are jumping to conclusions. Could it be possible that there are other explanations that make more sense?

Also, take note when you are predicting that only the worst will happen. Balance this out by thinking about what would be the best outcome of any given situation. Most likely, the result will be somewhere in between these two extremes.

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4 Sources
Verywell Mind uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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