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Updated: Nov 17, 2021

In order to support students to make and act on the most effective choices possible, it is important to help them become aware of the assumptions underlying their choices before they are made. We can help them look at the unhelpful exaggerations inherent in their assumptions and help them base their thoughts, feelings, and actions on self-supporting facts.

As briefly discussed in the previous blog, our assumptions are typically constructed when we are very young. They were put together without knowing we were doing so, based on our experiences and our attempts to understand and navigate them.

However, since we were very young when they were developed, we had neither the maturity nor the ability to see all the information clearly enough to develop a complete understanding. Therefore, many, if not most of our assumptions are filled with multiple errors in logic.

One of these errors in logic can be termed “crystal-balling”, when someone wrongly claims to know with certainty what will happen in the future. Clearly, it is stretching the truth to believe that anyone can predict the future exactly. However, for example, some people might steer clear of new activities because they are sure they would do badly. This might be based on an experience they had when they tried something new and they struggled with it. They then might have exaggerated that to assume that all new experiences would not be pleasant.

In order to change this exaggeration, we can teach youngsters to look at a range of future possibilities. Using the previous situation as an example, they could be taught to see that they might not do well, but there is also the possibility that they would be average, or even very good at the new activity.

Another way to help students correct or prevent the error of “crystal-balling” is by helping them change their language from absolutes to shades of gray. Instead of saying and believing they know what will happen in the future, they can look at a range of possibilities that might happen.

Another error in logic that contributes to our assumptions is generalizing, stretching the truth to fit more than is appropriate. An example of this is using words such as “always”, “never”, “everyone” and “no one”. A youngster may say something like “Everyone understands this but me”. We can help students to see shades of gray by suggesting use of words like “some”. We can help change the phrase and their understanding to a much more self-supporting “some people understand this and some people don’t understand”.

Another error in logic inherent in our assumptions is “awfulizing”, claiming that something is awful, horrible, or terrible. Looking at possible outcomes on an awfulness scale, more negative weight would be logically assigned to factually difficult circumstances, such as bad health, or death. However, sometimes, something is labeled as awful, when the situation is less than awful, rather, it is a situation that the person doesn’t like.

“Awfulizing” may lead to a variety of negative feelings, out of proportion to the situation. How many of us have hyperventilated and wasted valuable down time while stuck in traffic?! Students can be helped to discuss certain outcomes as undesirable, or disliked, as opposed to awful. They might have a preference for certain outcomes, but they can be helped to see that other outcomes are tolerable.

We can teach students to respond from a place of increased logic, using fewer generalizations, with an ability to see a range of future possibilities, and a less catastrophic response to situations. We can then help them to learn to apply this knowledge to their lives.

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