Climbing down the Ladder of Inference


One thing I notice myself doing quite frequently is to start quarreling about the course of action only to find later in the discussion that interlocutor and I have a very different views about the meaning of words that we are using. Or that we have a very different view which piece of information is important and which isn't. Or that my explanation of facts or evaluation of situation is quite different from my opponent's viewpoint. In any case, I'm quarreling with somebody about the actions that we should undertake while our understanding and interpretation of the facts underlying the actions under consideration is quite different. Harvard Business School professor Chris Argyris argues that the first thing one should do in such situations is to make yourself aware of the situation itself. For that purpose Argyris developed a framework called Ladder of Inference that helps one first understand at what level the discourse is taking place and, second, climb down the ladder if disagreements start accumulating. Once you sort out differences at the lower level, you can start climbing back up the ladder but now with underlying assumptions in sync. For a very good (and short) introduction of this technique check the following videos

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