Jumping to conclusions

The only exercise I excel at is jumping to conclusions. – James Nathan Miller

We often find ourselves rushed and pressured, and may miss the fine detail. We have been tricked into thinking that we can now get any information we want off the internet. Rushed, we scan to the key points and then move on to the next page. At the same time, we forget to leave time for ‘us’, to take a deep breath and ‘smell the roses’.

nature-person-hands-girlLet me give one example….You may have heard that words carry only 7% of the information conveyed in communication, that 38% of the information is conveyed by tone of voice and 55% by body language. This came from the work of Dr Albert Mehrabian. His study was actually all about what he called the ‘silent messages’ – how we communicate our emotions and attitudes.  He concluded that when words and non-verbal messages are in conflict, people believe the non-verbal every time. So when a friend asks, “Are you still angry with me?” you reply “No,” with your arms folded and with an angry tone. You obviously know that in this case ‘no’ means ‘yes’.  So Mehrabian’s work was not about communication in general but about communicating feelings.

When we say that 55% of the information about how someone feels is conveyed by body language, we are quite likely to be accurate. We can usually tell how someone is feeling just by the way they move as they enter the room? The way they walk, hold their head, the drop of their shoulders, and the expression on the face…but we need to look up from our smartphones to notice this!

There are two things I would like to say about this. Firstly, in the worlds we now live, work and play in, we have less time than ever. As a result, we make hasty decisions or take short cuts to find the information to get things done. As a consequence, we may not always get the correct answer. And secondly, if we take the time to observe what is happening around us that is likely to have an influence on us, we may be more likely to reach a sound conclusion. It may not always be the right one but we are getting the information we cannot get anywhere else, through our own senses.

“Insufficient information” is the typical response from computers, when asked to solve a problem for which the data provided is insufficient. It is worthwhile for us to take the time, and make the effort to check on whether or not we, too, have sufficient information before we make assumptions, and even more so before we act on them.

I feel as if my mission is to write, to see, to observe, and I feel lazy if I’m not reaching conclusions. I feel stupid. I feel as if I’m wasting my time. – Paul Theroux

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