Inclusive Communication

The Ladder of Inference

Tips for Working with Ladder of Inference

Mind Tools has some excellent 'Tips' to implement the 'Ladder of Inference' in your decision making. We have captured them in the chart below.

Tip 1:

Ask reflective questions!

Use the Ladder of Inference at any stage of your thinking process.

Key Questions to Consider:

  • Is this the "right" conclusion?
  • Why am I making these assumptions?
  • Why do I think this is the "right" thing to do?
  • Is this really based on all the facts?
  • Why does he believe that?

Stop and identify where you are on the ladder! Once you see where you are at on the ladder, start asking yourself WHAT you are thinking and WHY. You may need to change your assumptions (or check them out in conversation!) or extend the field data you have selected.

More questions to consider:

  • Why have I chosen this course of action? Are there other actions I should have considered?
  • What beliefs lead to that action? Was it well-founded?
  • Why did I draw that conclusion? Is the conclusion sound?
  • What am I assuming, and why? Are my assumptions valid?
  • What data have I chosen to use and why? Have I selected data rigorously?
  • What are the real facts that I should be using? Are there other facts I should consider?
Tip 2:

Start to notice personal patterns!

When you are working through your reasoning, look out for rungs that you tend to jump.

Do you tend to make assumptions too easily? Do you tend to select only part of the data? Note you tendencies so that you can learn to do that stage of reasoning with extra care in the future.

As you start to see some patterns, you will develop a new sense of reasoning (a wider field of data and considered assumptions). Continue to move forward with each rung!

Tip 3:
Consult with a trusted friend or colleague

Try explaining your reasoning to a friend, coach, colleague (someone not on your team). This will help you check that your argument is sound.

If you are challenging someone else's conclusions, it is very important to be able to explain your reasoning so that you can explain it to that person in a way that helps you reach a shared conclusion and avoid conflict.

Watch this video, Rethinking thinking by Trevor Maber.

Additional Resources:

Hot Tips for Challenging Conversations

How Miscommunication Happens