Thinking Trap #4 – Black and White Thinking
Just as it sounds, people who engage in black and white thinking believe ALL things fit neatly in one of two categories. Also called all all or nothing thinking. Something or someone is good or bad. There is no room for any shades of gray. However, life has shades of gray as every situation does not fit neatly into one of two categories. But black and white thinking is not as much about the object or situation, but moreseo about the person doing the evaluation. Extreme cases of black and white thinking can be a sign of a mental illness, such as Borderline Personality disorder. However, most cases are not necessarily a sign of mental illness.
Black and white thinking examples can be a girlfriend who says to her boyfriend, “aww you are the best boyfriend ever! So thoughtful, sweet, generous. Until he’s not! Then he may hear, “I can’t believe you said that! Who ever does that?! If you loved me you would not have done that, but since you are the worst boyfriend ever – you would. You are the worst!” Or “I have to do well on this project. If not, then the VP is going to think I am one of the dregs.” “If I am not a perfect mom, then I am a bad one. I have to always get it right.”
You can see how going from one extreme to the next can be an issue. Black and white thinking creates more stressors on your relationships. Significant others, children, friends are either good or bad, no in between. When engaging in such thoughts, you bring more anxiety and worry upon yourself and others. At work, it can cause you to be more stressed since you have your colleagues in either the good or bad, competent or incompetent bucket. And youyou’re your sweet britches one can rotate from one bucket to the other based on your most recent judgement. This can cause more workplace stress on yourself. Can impact your work place relationships and career mobility.
So what to do?
- Before you make a judgement, introduce at least one other possibility
- Ask yourself, when I mess up (and you do!), does it mean I am bad, incompetent or did I just get something not correctly?
- Think on this. Would someone be correct in assuming that you are only as worthy of friendship or grace as your most recent performance?
- Assess or even ask your friend/mate what were there intentions when you felt wronged.
Life is full of interpretations. We get it right often, but occasionally get it wrong. Black and white thinking introduces more errors than it alleviates.
The world if full of alternatives – so chin up, eyes forward, mind open – and let’s get it started!