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Thought Biases and How They Affect Us




Thought Biases and How They Affect Us


This is a short blog about noticing the kind of thought patterns you might be having. They are known as thought biases. They are preconceived ideas that run our behaviour. We aren’t always aware that we are thinking this way, it’s kind of running subconsciously in the background. I want to help bring these thought biases forward into your conscious awareness. See if you can detect them when you jump to conclusions or make assumptions. Notice that you are reacting in a certain way and in that moment of awareness, you take your power back. Mostly we live in a kind of haze of mindlessness. Becoming more mindful takes some practice but it gets easier the more you do it. How can you tell when you are being reactive and perhaps acting on a thought bias? Just drop into how your body feels, it will tell you what your mind was thinking. 


Before we get much further, I just wanted to remind you that we have a relationship between our thoughts and feelings. It goes both ways. Thoughts affect our bodies and create feelings. If you aren’t feeling well in your body, your thoughts might dip into a low mood. It is possible to change what you were thinking and do something different. Thoughts create actions,  which lead to behaviour and this creates our life experience. 


Today, we're looking into communication and thought biases in order to understand what our minds are doing without us knowing it. As the founder of the Speak & S.H.I.N.E. Academy for confident communication, I use a lot of science and psychology to help my clients avoid mental pitfalls. Grab a tea or your favourite beverage and get ready to explore some of the absurd patterns that mess with our minds.


1. Mind Reading:

Picture this: You're at a café, engrossed in a book (might be one of mine eh? “Mind Over Natter” or “Laughter Yoga A Year of Chuckling Through ‘The Change’’' and someone interrupts to ask what you're reading. You look up, squint at the cover, and proudly declare, "Oh, it's about overcoming negative inner critics. But you probably don’t have any.” Mind Reading bias strikes! Suddenly, you're the one with the negative critics and you think nobody else does, or you think the person would think you were crazy to have more than one. 


2. Overgeneralising:

If you are struggling with a low mood, it can take one little thing going wrong, to make you think the whole day is ruined. I recall a friend who once declared, "I tried kale chips once; they were terrible. Therefore, all healthy snacks are a scam." Overgeneralising at its finest! One bad experience turns into a blanket judgement about an entire category of snacks. Who knew kale chips had such power?


3. Egocentric Thinking:

When we are stressed, our focus narrows. We've all been guilty of egocentric thinking. We make things all about us. I confess to a time when I believed traffic lights were conspiring against me. "They turn red just when I approach! It's like they know I'm in a hurry." Spoiler alert: Traffic lights don't have personal vendettas.


4. Emotional Reasoning:

Ever been convinced that your coworker hates you because they didn't say "good morning" with enough enthusiasm? Emotional reasoning strikes again! Our feelings don't always align with reality, and assuming someone's emotions based on subtle cues can lead us down an unhappy rabbit hole.


5. The Mental Filler:

Picture this scenario: You're at a party, feeling a bit out of place. Mental filler kicks in, and suddenly you're convinced everyone is noticing your mismatched shoes. I did that. I had a navy blue shoe on my left foot, and a black one on my right foot. Similar shoes which looked like a pair in the cupboard…I only noticed the difference when I was looking at my feet avoiding eye-contact. Sometimes we fill our minds with imaginary concerns, forgetting that people are more interested in conversation than shoe coordination.


6. Musts and Shoulds:

Didn’t we all have a friend who believed she must have her life figured out by 30? "Because society says so, right?" These musts and shoulds often set unrealistic expectations. Who made these rules anyway? From my book, “Mind Over Natter,” my suggestion is to replace, “I must,” or “I should'' with, “I get.” It’s easier when we transform the heavy expectation of “musts” and “shoulds” with the lighter energy of getting to do something. Another example is, instead of saying, “I must fetch the kids,” it becomes, “I get to fetch the kids.”


7. All or Nothing Thinking:

In the world of all or nothing thinking, dating is a good way to describe this kind of thought bias. One bad date and a friend of mine said, "I'm destined to be alone with my cat!". My advice? “Maybe just find someone who likes cats too.” If we don’t check our thoughts, they can run into contracted thinking. It’s possible to expand our thinking through mindful awareness of our thought biases. Through unconditional laughter based on the practice of Laughter Yoga, I encourage you to shine a light on these cognitive quirks, reminding you that life's too short to take ourselves too seriously. So, the next time you catch yourself in the grip of a thought bias, channel your inner Tové and turn it into light laughter instead. After all, laughter is the best medicine for contracted thinking!


8. Fortune Telling:

I have a left eyebrow that I can raise on its own. It happens a lot when I see my own thoughts unfold, never mind my friends and colleagues. I raise that eyebrow now when I share a story about a friend who cancelled a hiking trip because they were convinced it would rain. The catch? The weather was crystal clear. Fortune Telling bias in action! Sometimes, we predict the future with unwarranted certainty, missing out on sunny opportunities. The weather is one of those things, it’s predicted to be one way and turns out another. But we can see this in our thoughts too. We predict that someone will take the last slice of chocolate cake and we build up resentment about them. Then when they pick up the plate and offer us that delicious, last slice we can sometimes be surprised by how wrong we were. Unless of course, she picks up the plate and munches into the chocolate yumminess, then we feel like our fortune-telling was spot on. The point is, we can’t know for certain what someone will do or say. Stay attuned to what you predict about yourself and others and see if that is fear-based or more rooted in optimism and a sense of abundance. I know people will say it’s better to be safe than sorry but I wonder if that doesn’t keep us trapped in a negative loop? How lovely to be surprised by someone’s behaviour especially when we thought ill of them. 


9. Catastrophizing:

In the realm of catastrophizing, I recount a tale of a minor kitchen mishap turning into an epic saga. I was staying at a friend’s and I burned the toast. Suddenly, I was convinced my entire day was ruined. Then I left the omelette too long before flipping it and that friend of mine walked into the kitchen saying, “Oh what’s burning?” The truth? Pretty much everything I was doing in the kitchen!  Catastrophizing magnifies small setbacks into monumental disasters, adding a touch of drama to the everyday. Thankfully that day was nothing like that catastrophe my mind was dreading—we ended up doing some Laughter Yoga Leader training together and positively impacted 11 people’s lives.


10. Mind Reading:

Have you ever had someone be absolutely convinced they knew what you were thinking? I have a  friend who is a little paranoid and he constantly worries about what people think about him. He’ll call me up to say that his colleagues definitely don't like him, and he knows what they’re thinking. He’d say, 'I know what they’re thinking about me, they think I can’t handle the account. I’m too much of a people-please to push for the up-sell.” Mind Reading bias involves assuming we know what others are thinking, often leading to unnecessary social anxiety and misunderstandings.


Conclusion:

There are so many quirks of the mind, and quite a few more thought biases too. I loved the author of, “Why Has Nobody Told Me This Before?” Dr Julie Smith’s way of describing them, “High emotion states can make it hard to think clearly”. She says that it can be, “easier to start by reflecting on thought biases after the emotions of the moment have passed. You build your awareness by looking back, but that gradually builds towards awareness in real time.” I hope I’ve given you a starting point and that it can be interesting to listen in objectively to the conversations you may be having with mind. If you’d like to know more about my idea that we have more than once inner critic, you can get my book, “Mind Over Natter,” through Amazon. It’s in Hardcover, paperback, Kindle and an Audiobook. There are some lovely meditations which make the audiobook worthwhile. Here is one of them from my Youtube Channel: https://youtu.be/Bso07WFXuHQ?si=Hlir1AxgDq1jqJN1


The Speak & S.H.I.N.E. Academy's approach to understanding and overcoming these biases has become what a client of mine once described as, “A beacon of light.” I really loved the analogy, and I mention it not to blow my own trumpet but to give you a visual for how you can shine a light on your thinking too. (See what I did there? I dropped into a mind-reading bias, worried you’d think I had an over-inflated opinion of myself). I’m a work in progress too! I emphasise that laughter and self-awareness can be powerful tools in the journey towards confident communication. So, the next time you catch yourself predicting doom, envisioning the worst, or attempting mind reading, take a cue from me, then take a breath and laugh it off. If you’d like to know more about my membership or to book some private coaching or to train as a Laughter Yoga Leader, email tove@tovekane.com



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