Common Cognitive Distortions

1. Mind reading. You assume that you know what people think without having sufficient evidence of their thoughts. “He thinks I’m a loser.”

2. Fortune-telling. You predict the future negatively: things will get worse, or there is danger ahead. “I’ll fail that exam,” or “I won’t get the job.”

3. Catastrophizing.You believe that what has happened or will happen will be so awful and unbearable that you won’t be able to stand it. “It would be terrible if I failed.”

4. Labeling. You assign global negative traits to yourself and others. “I’m undesirable,” or “He’s a rotten person.”

5. Discounting positives. You claim that the positive things you or others do are trivial. “That’s what wives are supposed to do—so it doesn’t count when she’s nice to me,” or “Those successes were easy, so they don’t matter.”

6. Negative filtering. You focus almost exclusively on the negatives and seldom notice the positives. “Look at all of the people who don’t like me.”

7. Overgeneralizing. You perceive a global pattern of negatives on the basis of a single incident. “This generally happens to me. I seem to fail at a lot of things.”

8. Dichotomous thinking. You view events or people in all-or-nothing terms. “I get rejected by everyone,” or “It was a complete waste of time.”

9. Blaming. You focus on the other person as the source of your negative feelings, and you refuse to take responsibility for changing yourself. “She’s to blame for the way I feel now,” or “My parents caused all my problems.”

10. What if? You keep asking a series of questions about “what if” something happens, and you fail to be satisfied with any of the answers. “Yeah, but what if I get anxious?,” or “What if I can’t catch my breath?”

11. Emotional reasoning. You let your feelings guide your interpretation of reality. “I feel depressed; therefore, my marriage is not working out.”

12. Inability to disconfirm. You reject any evidence or arguments that might contradict your negative thoughts. For example, when you have the thought I’m unlovable, you reject as irrelevant any evidence that people like you. Consequently, your thought cannot be refuted. “That’s not the real issue. There are deeper problems. There are other factors.”


Consider this. Maria, head of her department, has a concern about the dedication of one or two of her staff members. Maria learned somewhere that it's not good to embarrass anybody in public, so at the next staff meeting, she says: "I have some concerns about some people in our department who seem uncommitted and unwilling to go the extra mile. I want it clear that we need maximum effort from everyone." And, she leaves it at that. Is this a good way to approach the issue?

Well, it certainly doesn't single out anyone, hence avoiding public embarrassment. But how do you think staff will react? First, each and every person in the room will wonder if they've somehow offended the boss. That's ALWAYS the first reaction to what we call "insinuation". The next reaction is: "Oh, right, Maria must be talking about Jethro (or some other coworker." Perhaps more serious is the effect this type of communication has on trust. Because of the lack of clarity and ambiguity, it wouldn't be surprising if staff began to doubt the boss's honesty or straightforwardness.

Insinuation isn't used only by managers. Many people use it rarely. Some people use it often. Each use of insinuation increases distrust, damages the work environment and has the potential to trigger very destructive conflict.So, what's insinuation? Insinuation refers to a statement that is ambiguous, vaguely put, and generally negative. The nature of insinuation is that it is deniable, and that's one reason why people use it. It avoids addressing issues straight up and directly, and therein lays its destructiveness. The use of insinuation pushes solutions much farther away because it disguises the issue, and creates additional mistrust.

Here's another example. Over coffee Mark is talking to Fred, one of his coworkers. Mark says: "I don't want to name names but it's pretty obvious that someone around here isn't interested in anything but his own job." Can anything good come from this? I doubt it. It isn't meant to SOLVE the problem. It isn't being discussed with the right person (who would obviously be the person that remains unnamed). It's just sneaky, deniable backstabbing.

So, What Can I Do?

First, if you have something to say don't cloak it in vagueness or insinuation. Realize that such remarks won't get anything solved, and are liable to make things worse for everyone, including you.

Second, take some responsibility. If you have a concern, then have the courage to take it up with the person in question, in private, and try to work it out. Don't snipe from afar. If private conversations fail, then it may be appropriate to bring it up in a more public setting, but present it in the spirit of solving a problem, and make sure you take responsibility for your comments and opinions.

Third, understand that people use insinuation when they feel uncomfortable with expressing their anger or frustration, but can't discipline themselves to keep their mouths shut. Or, perhaps their frustration levels are so high, they aren't thinking clearly. If you are tempted to insinuate, ask yourself this question: "Am I saying this in the spirit of trying to solve a problem, or am I saying this because of some selfish motive or because I'm too uncomfortable to approach this constructively? If it's the latter, don't say it.

Finally, keep in mind that every time you use insinuation you will be seen as less courageous, more manipulative and less trustworthy by the majority of people who hear you. This applies even for people who might "congratulate you" on your insinuation, for they, too will realize that your next target might be them

Culled from Esquire Magazine

Men's Groups

by Scott Raab

As a man who was part of a weekly men's support group for many years, I found few topics that created more discomfort in other men than the subject of men's support groups.

The problem  isn't that men won't talk.  The problem is that all they talk about is the usual baloney.  And the stuff that troubles most men most -- how to handle office politics, how to weather a domestic blowup, how to do right by their kids--gets buried, if it's raised at all, under layers of ritual palaver about sports or sex.

In fact, the men I know best, including myself, trust and rely on themselves alone to work out the hardest stuff, and have come to define that very self-reliance as a key component of their success as men.  To talk about the struggle, the uncertainty, and the fear is not only a sign of weakness; to talk about such things--merely to admit to feeling them--feels like a kind of failure in itself.  Better, then, to say nothing.

That's a lonesome way to go brother.  The struggles, at home and on the job are universal, a necessary part of moving up in the world.  Every fighter needs a cornerman, someone who knows his strengths and weaknessess.  Any decent men's group will have one or two guys savvier than you, less crazy, with no ax to grind.  Likewise, there'll be members of the group who'll look to you for illumination.  A good group is an ongoing seminar with direct practical application and no downside.  Most are run by therapists.  

(Look online to start or here for information on upcoming mens meetings.)