Since we have a few weeks before the next congregational conversation on February 23, I’d like to share a model that might be helpful for personal reflection and in future discussions. The ladder of inference was developed by an organizational psychologist named Chris Argyris.

Each of us filters the world around us in a different way. We select among observable data, often without thinking much about it. We add meaning to that slice of data according to our personal experiences or cultural background. Those assigned meanings lead us to make assumptions, and we then make conclusions accordingly. As conclusions pile up over time, they solidify into beliefs. We act based on those beliefs.

The ladder of inference explains how even in a congregation that averages 100 in attendance, people can end up having very divergent perspectives and experiences. It can also help us learn to explore situations through others’ eyes. How might differences at each rung of the ladder lead to ranges of beliefs and actions? Where are potential points at which further discussion might result in understanding and collaboration?


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