Errors in Thinking & Conflict Management

In Chapter Three of the Mandt System, conflict management is discussed. To manage a conflict, one must first have an accurate understanding of the situation. In order to have an objective understanding of the conflict it is helpful to be aware of errors in thinking that can occur. These errors are typically referred to as cognitive distortions (Burns, 1989). We may catch ourselves or others indulging in these distortions from time to time. However, there can be nothing gained through distorted thinking. It is far better to recognize the distortion and steer one’s mind back to more productive thinking. While not a complete list, the following are descriptions of common cognitive distortions:

• Polarized thinking can also be described as “all or nothing thinking” or “black and white thinking”. This occurs when a person only sees the extremes of a situation.

• Overgeneralization happens when a person assumes that because something has occurred once before than it must occur again.

• Discounting the positive occurs when a person believes that when something positive happens it is meaningless.

• Jumping to conclusions occurs when a person draws a conclusion without enough information.

• Magnification/minimization is a distortion of the significance of an event. The event is often made out to be worse than it really is. Alternately, a significant event might be minimized.

• Emotional reasoning is assuming that because something feels true, that it must be true.

• Mind reading is when a person assumes, without sufficient evidence, that they know what another is thinking/feeling.

• Fortune telling occurs when a person, with little evidence, believes that they can predict future outcomes.

• Personalization occurs when a person assumes blame for some event that they are not responsible for.

In order to successfully navigate errors in thinking, we must pay close attention to our thoughts and engage in perception checking. The Mandt System recommends a three-step approach to perception checking:

1. Describe the event objectively. Be accurate and thorough. Look for evidence of cognitive distortions in your description.
2. Try to analyze the event from at least two perspectives. If your thoughts and feelings about the event tend to be negative, see if you can reframe the issue with a more positive outlook.

3. Compare your perspective to the perspectives of other people who were or are involved with the event. Pay attention to both facts and feelings. Be on the lookout for evidence of cognitive distortions in the perspectives of others.

John Windsor – Mandt System Faculty

Burns, David D. (1989). The Feeling Good Handbook: Using the New Mood Therapy in Everyday Life. New York: W. Morrow.

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