An excellent way to better understand the Ladder of Inference is to work in a small group and talk about a pattern of behavior that everyone can relate to. Some examples (in addition to the parking lot example) include: someone cutting in front of you in a line at the store; a friend or family member who is always annoyingly late; or someone who leaves you disappointed because he/she breaks more promises than he/she keeps. As you each share your experience, focus on what assumptions are at play, the conclusions you are each drawing from those assumptions, and what emotions you feel as a result. What are you seeing and learning as you hear how different everyone’s ladder can be?
On one half of a sheet of paper, draw your own version of a ladder (make sure it has 7 rungs!) and label it with the terms that have been presented. On the other half of the paper, answer the following three questions to help you recognize when you are your own Ladder of Inference. When I am experiencing something negative, undesirable or uncomfortable:
What are the emotions I feel? What are the physical reactions I experience in my body? How does my behavior change?
If you’re comfortable doing so, share your list with close friends or family and ask them to remind you when they see you climbing up your Ladder of Inference, and use this as a cue to stop, step back and examine what is going on.
Action Science – the research approach used by Chris Argyris http://www.actionscience.com/
The Fifth Discipline – a foundational text on organizations that relies significantly on the thinking and work of Chris Argyris http://www.infed.org/thinkers/senge.htm
Chris Argyris is an American business theorist, Professor Emeritus at Harvard Business School. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chris_Argyris
Assistant Professor Trevor Maber gave a TED talk at the TEDActive 2012 Conference in Palm Springs in early March. During the TEDUniversity session, Maber spoke on the Johari Window, applying it to personal and professional relationships. http://blog.ted.com/2012/03/01/from-robot-twins-to-buggy-brains-tedyou-session-2/
Award-winning author Ed Muzio describes Chris Argyris' "Ladder of Inference" model and how you can use it to avoid making incorrect judgments. The Ladder of Inference causes us to move from data within our perception to beliefs and actions based upon our assumptions. Avoiding these jumps improves workplace communication and increases the likelihood of productive coworker relationships. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K9nFhs5W8o8