Review “Distinguish between Facts and Inferences,” on page 81 of your Interpersonal
Distinguish between facts and Inferences
Competent Interpersonal communication also depends on distinguishing facts from inferences. A
fact is based on observation. An inference involves an interpretation that goes beyond the facts.
For example, suppose that a person is consistently late reporting to work and sometimes dozes
off during discussions. Coworkers night think, “That person is lazy and unmotivated.’ The facts
are that the person comes in late and sometimes falls asleep. Defining the person as lazy and
unmotivated is an inference that goes beyond the facts. It’s possible that the coworker is tired
because he or she has a second job or is taking medication that induces drowsiness.
It’s easy to confuse facts and inferences because we sometimes treat the latter as the former.
When we say, “That the employee is lazy,” we’ve make a statement that sound factual, and
we may then perceive is as factual. To avoid this tendency, substitute more tentative words.
For instance, “That employee seems unmotivated,” or “That employee may be lazy” are more
tentative statements that keep the speaker from treating an inference as a fact. We must make
inferences to function in the world. Yet we risk misperceptions and misunderstandings if we
don’t distinguish our inferences from facts.
For the next 24 hours, pay attention to the way you and others speak about people and situations.
• Take notes on the conversations you take part in or observe.
• Determine whether inferences/assumptions were stated as if they were facts.
Using Microsoft Word, write an essay that describes your observations and conclusions.
• Use specific examples.
• Suggest alternate tentative statements that would be more accurate than the inferences that were
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