6 Questions to Help Your Thinking!

At times we can fall into a pattern of thinking that is unhelpful to us.

Here is an example:

You are late for work one morning and when you arrive a group of your colleagues are in a little huddle. You automatically assume they are complaining to each other about your lateness.

Because you think they are talking about you, you don’t offer an explanation for your lateness but go to your desk without speaking. And you have a miserable day, reviving in your head every negative experience you have ever had at work, feeling more and more miserable and unhappy.

Challenge Your Thinking

Here’s a list of questions to use to challenge your perceptions:

What are the actual facts?
I was late for work and people were engaged in conversation when I arrived.

What are my perceptions?
That they were talking about my unreliability and my being late.

What evidence supports my perceptions?
No one talked to me all morning

What evidence contradicts my perceptions?
No one has made any comment about my lateness. We’ve all been really busy this morning, heads down because it’s reports day. Generally there is a friendly atmosphere and I haven’t had any problems before.

Is my thinking unhelpful?
I am immediately jumping to negative conclusions.

How else can I look at what happened?
I didn’t offer any explanation so they are respecting my privacy. They may have been worrying about me, not talking unkindly about me. They may even have been talking about my birthday which is next week. I have no evidence of what they were talking about at all. My silence stopped them talking to me as they may have thought I was upset.

In fact, there are loads of alternative explanations so ask yourself why you have chosen the one with least favourable consequences for you?


If you can teach yourself this form of self questioning you’ll be following a long and noble tradition begun by Socrates. You are employing Socratic questioning and holding your thoughts up to logical scrutiny. Try it out next time you find yourself jumping to conclusions, and let me know how you get on!


Posted on April 22nd, 2010 by

2 Responses to “6 Questions to Help Your Thinking!”

  1. I am very conscious that I don’t mind read especially when I teach this to the children I see. It is a difficult skill to learn as we all have paranoia. Most of the time I think ok so I did this and people wil leither take note of it or they won’t. If they don’t I will carry on my business. I probably am an exception.

    • Jane says:

      Yes, it’s hard. For most of us it’s not a huge problem but when it gets out of hand learning to pose these questions every time can be helpful. And you are probably exceptional for all sorts of reasons! Thanks, Naomi.

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