In this module, we’ll continue our look at the most common thinking errors and irrational beliefs that might affect you. We review what they are, potential consequences of thinking in this way and offer you alternative ways of thinking that will be beneficial to you. This will help you change your self-talk
By understanding how this type of thinking can either hold you back or make you feel worse about yourself, you can continue your journey into your personal development to be a more confident and happier person.
In this module, we look at three other types of thinking errors – overgeneralising, fortune-telling and filtering and magnifying – and you’ll start to notice how some of these ways of thinking will tend to overlap.
It’s useful to look at every aspect because some will be more personal to you than others.
Let’s start this module with…
Thinking Error 3: Overgeneralization
This is when one negative event is the beginning of a never-ending pattern. It’s that thinking that says – ‘If I fail the first time, I’ll fail every time.”
Typical self-talk here would be
“Things always go wrong for me”
“I never win when I play….a certain opponent or at a certain venue”
One characteristic of human behaviour is our tendency to follow patterns. This means people tend to use a particular experience as a template for what might happen generally.
This type of thinking, like many thinking errors – doesn’t require any proof or evidence in order to make assumptions on how the world works.
Let’s look at some examples.
A person who loses a game of charades might think
‘Typical – I never win at anything’
A young girl gets teased at school and thinks, “everybody hates me”
A pensioner reads about a robbery and believes ‘no one is safe anymore’
The list goes on…
As another example, and this is really typical of many performers – in a football match, you make an error at the start of the game and assume everything’s going to be bad today.
So with overgeneralising, if something – one thing – went wrong the assumption is that everything is going to go wrong.
It’s the “I’m having a bad day” scenario when its 9 o clock in the morning and a couple of things haven’t gone your way.
These are all examples of generalisations where people draw a far-reaching universal conclusion on the basis of a single unpleasant experience or even a discrete piece of information.
The language of people prone to over-generalisation is usually a reliable giveaway.
If you regularly hear yourself using absolute terms like NEVER – ALWAYS – EVERYONE and NO ONE, then the chances are you might be vulnerable to this type of thinking.
One great way of counteracting this is to train yourself to look at the exceptions to the rule – this is highly effective –
so if you lose at Charades you might think of when you won at something else.
Similarly, if you have one or two good friends you can dismiss the thought – ‘no one likes me’ – and so on.
The danger with this type of thinking, in the same way with many of our thoughts and beliefs, is that we tend to screen out anything that doesn’t fit in with our convictions – whereas we seize upon every minute bit of evidence that supports it – more of this when we speak about filtering in a later module.
Unfortunately, generalisation easily becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy – so, for example, someone who thinks she is universally unpopular will tend to make little effort to socialise – and the player who thinks an early mistake in a game means it’s going to be a bad all-round performance
– and probably, both of these people end up being right.
Thinking Error 4. Fortune Telling.
Another case of jumping to a conclusion – in this kind of irrational thinking, you decide that you know exactly what the future will bring, and it’s usually negative, and you base your self-talk on this type of thinking.
A classic error here is believing that nothing will work out, so why bother trying.
For example, when someone goes in for a written test, an exam or interview tells people beforehand – ‘I know I’m going to fail’.
What tends to be the result?
You bring about the future you fear and expect.
Some years ago the England soccer team got to the later stages of tournaments and the media and public started to predict that should any game go to penalty shootout England would fail, as there was a history of England team’s going out of tournaments on penalties – completely failing to acknowledge that this team was not a group that had ever failed on penalties!
Stop yourself thinking in this way by understanding the futility of trying to predict the future, and start focussing on what is important now. What can you do now to give yourself the best opportunity to achieve your objectives?
Thinking Error 5: Filtering and magnifying.
This is a thinking error I believe we’re all subject to in life… I touched on this earlier and it’s where we filter the information we receive to fit in with our model of the world, our beliefs, and our wants.
So we find, accept and acknowledge information that fits with our preconceptions and we disregard other equally relevant information.
At one extreme you might only look at the bad, never the good. Your focus is on everything that doesn’t go your way and you totally ignore all the things that do.
You might single out a negative detail and dwell on it, ignoring any good things you’ve done.
You may see only your weaknesses and mistakes, and disregard your strengths and accomplishments – a typical trait of a pessimistic athlete or someone whose performance deteriorates quickly after making a few errors.
You pick out a single negative detail and dwell on it exclusively so that your vision of all reality becomes darkened.
Like the drop of ink that discolours a beaker of water.
A good example here is when you receive many positive comments about your business presentation to a group of associates at work, but one of them says something mildly critical.
You obsess about his reaction for days and ignore the positive feedback.
Working with a professional tennis player once, his coach gave him a strategy to hit down the line backhands as a tactic to exploit his opponent’s weakness. The player was not in total agreement and even though he won a number of points using the strategy after losing one point using this tactic he turned to the coach and shouted –
“that’s your fault – you told me to hit the shot”
– I was sitting next to the coach at the time and we just looked at each other dumbfounded. He’d just won 5 shots using the strategy and lost one! Filtering and magnification in action.
In both cases, the individual giving the presentation and the tennis player, they both ignored the many things that were going well or according to plan and focused on the one thing that didn’t.
With Magnification, You exaggerate the importance of your problems and shortcomings, or you minimise the importance of your desirable qualities.
This type of thinking comes from people’s core belief that they’re not good enough, so unconsciously – or even consciously – they’re looking for evidence to support their viewpoint.
And they ignore or ‘screen out’ the abundant evidence of their successes.
For individuals who think in this way, even trying to convince them to the contrary is seldom successful as they believe your assurances are just designed to make them feel better.
to stop yourself thinking in this way
- Try to see the whole picture and look at the facts of the situation even if they don’t seem to fit in with your expectations
- Challenge your initial beliefs by building a case for the opposite viewpoint
- Check you’re not blowing small elements of what happens completely out of proportion – think – ‘how important will this be in 3 years’ time’ – 3 months’ time or even 3 days’ time’.
In this module, we’ve explored three other types of thinking errors, overgeneralising, fortune-telling and filtering and magnifying.
Again, we’ve looked at some of the consequences of thinking in these ways and offered suggestions on how you might change this way of thinking by changing your self-talk.
In the next module
we’ll continue to look at some of the other common types of thinking errors including mind-reading, labelling and emotional reasoning.
Your MYND activity
You should by now have started to notice the types of thinking errors you make the most, and hopefully, be better equipped to start challenging these irrational – and quite normal – ways of thinking.
Consider times you used any – or all – of the three types of thinking errors we’ve looked at in this module –
Overgeneralising – ‘it’s all bad’
fortune-telling – ‘things are not going to turn out well’
or used filtering and magnification ‘I can only see the downside of this’
How did that way of thinking make you feel and act? What was the outcome? Was it always as bad as you thought?
Now consider if you’d challenged those irrational thoughts at the time. Would you have handled the situation or event in a different way? Would you have felt better?
See you in the next module