Scott’s Thoughts: The Ladder of Inference

“Human beings are perhaps never more frightening than when they are convinced beyond doubt that they are right.”

-Laurens van der Post, Afrikaner author, farmer, war hero, political adviser.

Ladders against a wall.I wanted to set aside some time this week to introduce a decision making tool you might find helpful as you develop your real estate career and guide clients. It’s called “The Ladder of Inference.”

Originally developed by psychologist Chris Argyris, the purpose of this tool is to help you identify and reconsider the steps in decision making which may lead you to wrong conclusions. As we are under pressure to make quick decisions, often with emotional influence, mindful use of this tool can foster greater clarity and self-awareness.

The Ladder of Inference is built from questions to keep in mind as you walk through your reasoning process. These include:

  • What are the real facts that I should be using? Are there other facts I should consider?
  • What data have I chosen to use and why? Have I selected data rigorously?
  • What am I assuming, and why? Are my assumptions valid?
  • Why did I draw that conclusion? Is the conclusion sound?
  • What belief lead to that action? Was it well-founded?
  • Why have I chosen this course of action? Are there other actions I should have considered?

MindTools has an excellent primer on the Ladder of Inference, filled with real-world examples to help you understand how the tool works.

According to the piece:

“By using the Ladder of Inference, you can learn to get back to the facts and use your beliefs and experiences to positive effect, rather than allowing them to narrow your field of judgment. Following this step-by-step reasoning can lead you to better results, based on reality, so avoiding unnecessary mistakes and conflict.”

There’s also a good infographic linked at the bottom of the piece which you might want to save and keep handy. Refer to it when you’re planning for the future or evaluating past efforts.

Bring some rigor and self-reflection to your decision making this week:

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