How often do you jump to conclusions about another person’s motivation or reason for doing something especially when what they are doing is causing you angst?
If you’re human, the answer is possibly, a lot.
How often do we find ourselves rising up the “Ladder of Inference” (theory first put forward by organizational psychologist Chris Argyris), creating new truths for ourselves that clutter our view of our world and make it difficult to answer the question “what’s really happening right now?” (you can see the diagram for the Ladder of Inference Ian mentions by clicking here.)
We are New Truth Makers, continually spinning tales of ‘what’s really happening’ outside our sphere of influence to deflect from what’s really happening within us when we become hyper engaged in someone else’s story.
Recently I had a perfect example of my ability to be a new truth maker. A simple mistake, omission, moment of forgetfulness by another lead me down a path to telling myself the story of how they were being deceitful.
Fact is, what I knew to be true is they had not done something that needed doing. Whether it was forgotten, an oversight, or an intentional omission made little difference to what needed to happen — and that was for them to address the situation so that it would be resolved.
Challenge is, in my story-making-up-of-their-motivation, I fell into my own trap. I believed less of them and in that place, felt less of myself because my response, based on my less-than thinking, did not keep me in the moment, did not leave me operating from my higher self, but rather, thinking from my baser instincts.
And that does not serve me well.
Life will always offer up opportunities to rise above or sink below our instinctual habits. For example, I know that I don’t trust people’s motivations easily. It is learned behaviour that I am conscious of, and when acting from a place of esteem, balance, openness and authenticity, does not pull me down to my baser instincts. However, because I have an inherent belief that people are ‘out to get me’, I can fall into the trap of believing they are not acting from a place of wanting to contribute their best in moments of discord. When I let go of my desire to stand in the light and be at peace with the world around me, it is relatively easy for me to leap to the conclusion that what motivates others to do what they do, is proof I should never have trusted in the first place.
From that place, it’s just a short hop, skip and a jump to seeing what someone else is doing as being nefarious, underhanded, deceitful…
Staying conscious of my innate distrust of other’s motivations keeps me grounded on my path, without my capacity to create new truths that prove my child-centric belief, ‘I can’t trust anyone’, interfering with my ability to continually check in with ‘what’s really happening right now’.
Making ‘new truths’ is convenient. It means I don’t actually have to see inside myself to what’s really happening now within me. It means I don’t have to be 100% accountable for my responses, my actions, my own story. It puts me in that treacherous place of negative fortune-telling where I see ‘what’s really going on here’ as the one and only truth – and that’s not a truth based on fact. It’s based on the story I’ve created to keep me from feeling at risk.
We all encounter moments where it is convenient/habitual to make up stories about why someone else is doing what they’re doing that is causing angst or drama or unease in our worlds.
Fact is, we can never be 100% all-knowing of what motivates another.
We can be 100% all-knowing of what motives us when we stop our rapid ascent of the Ladder of Inference, take a breath and go back to the basics of asking, ‘what’s really going on here, right now, inside of me’.
When you do that, when you take the time to stop and ask yourself, ‘What’s this really about for me?’ ‘What do I really want right now’ ‘Is my belief about the other 100% true?’ ‘Is my story about what they’re doing 100% fact?’, or, ‘Is my story about the other interfering with my ability to be… happy, content, peaceful, accomplished…?’, when you ask yourself the tough questions and lovingly embrace the answers that appear, the truth may surprise you.