Imagine a microscopic-sized ladder contained in the part of our brain that we’ll label our subconscious.
The ladder of inference, which was first proposed by Harvard professor Chris Argyris,
is the basis of this model.
Every time we interact with someone,
that experience enters the ladder at the bottom.
That same experience zips up the ladder in the blink of an eye,
exiting at the top.
This process happens thousands of times a day without us knowing it.
Let’s focus on what happens on each rung of the ladder.
On the first rung, we have the raw data and observations of our experience.
This is very similar to what someone watching a video recording of our experience would see.
Moving up to the second rung
we filter in specific information and details from our experience.
我们会无意识地根据自己的 爱好 倾向
We unknowingly filter based on our preferences, tendencies,
and many other aspects that we believe are important.
On to the third rung.
We assign meaning to the information we have filtered through.
This is where we start to interpret what our information is telling us.
On our fourth rung, a very crucial thing happens.
We develop assumptions based on the meaning we created on the previous rung,
and we start to blur the distincition between what is fact and what is story.
On the fifth rung, we develop conclusions based on our assumptions.
This is also where our emotional reactions are created.
On the sixth rung, we adjust our beliefs about the world around us,
including the person or people involved in our experience of the moment.
On the seventh and final rung,
we take action based on our adjusted beliefs.
Still with me? Great!
Let’s take a real-life example and run it up the ladder to see how this all works.
Have you ever been cut off in a parking lot, signal light on
as you steer toward your coveted spot, only to slam on your brakes at the last minute
as someone pulls in front of you and steals your spot away?
Imagine that experience and notice all of the data and observations landing on the first rung of your ladder.
Now let’s watch what we pay attention to on the second rung.
Who cares that it’s sunny out and the birds are chirping?
The 50% off sign outside of your favorite store is meaningless.
You filter in the sensation of your grip tightening on the wheel,
you feel your blood pressure rise,
you hear the squeal of your brakes,
and you notice the expression on the face of the other driver as he pulls in front of you and quickly looks away.
Time for our third rung.
Ever since you were young, your parents taught you the importance of waiting in line and taking your turn.
You live and die by the rule of first come, first serve.
And now this guy has just stolen your spot. What gives?
Up to the fourth rung we go.
Watch closely as our assumptions take over and our story creates itself.
‘That stupid jerk, didn’t his parents teach him anything?
How could he not see my signal light? He must never pay attention!
Why does he think he’s more important than anyone else?’
Jumping quickly to the fifth rung,
我们得出结论 这哥们无情无义无法无天 是时候给他上一课了 不然他都不知道自己算老几
we conclude that this guy is heartless, inconsiderate, he needs to be taught a lesson and put in his place.
你感到愤怒、沮丧 你怀恨在心 觉得自己理直气壮
We feel angry, frustrated, vindictive, justified.
在第六梯级 根据刚刚的经历 我们调整了我们的想法
On our sixth rung, we adjust our beliefs based on the experience.
‘That’s the last time I give in! Next time someone tries to cut me off,
tires will be smoking on the pavement as I squeal past them into my spot.’
And finally our last rung: we take action.
你把车倒回去 停在他后面 猛按喇叭 摇下车窗朝着他破口大骂
We back up, pull up behind his car, honk our horn, and roll down our window to scream a few choice words his way.
现在再设想一下 他马上开走了车 并礼貌地道歉
Now imagine, he walks over quickly, apologizing.
His wife, who’s almost due with their first baby, called him from inside the mall
to say she is in labor and needs to get to the hospital immediately.
这一秒钟你是懵逼的 旋即向他赔礼 并朝着他向商场出口绝尘而去的背影喊了声祝好运
We’re momentarily shocked, apologize profusely, and wish him luck as he rushes toward the entrance.
What just happened here? What changed? Why is this so significant?
In our parking lot example,
our beliefs were short-circuited by the ladder of the other individual.
‘My wife is in labor, I need to get there quick,
there’s a parking spot. Whew!
我去 我把别人堵了 我得马上道歉 不然人家得觉得我是个混帐了
Oh, jeez, I cut someone off. I’d better apologize quickly so they don’t think I’m a jerk.’
But what if we were able to short-circuit our ladders ourselves?
Proactively, by choice?
Guess what? We can!
Let’s return to our unique human function of free will.
Next time you notice yourself reacting to your experience,
pay focused attention to your ladder.
问问你自己 有什么想法在作祟 他们是打哪儿冒出来的
Ask yourself what beliefs are at play, where do they come from.
What data and observations did you filter in as a result of your beliefs, and why?
Are your assumptions valid and supported by facts?
Would a different set of assumptions create different feelings, and result in new and better conclusions and actions?
We all have our own unique ladder.
Be mindful of yours, and help others to see theirs.