These ideas are more correctly called cognitive distortions, or twisted thinking, and come from work into psychopathological states, especially depression and anxiety, by Aaron T. Beck and later David D. Burns. But you can recognise them as things that happen in everyday life and are unhelpful in difficult conversations.


All or Nothing Thinking

This is when we see something as black-or-white with nothing in between, no shades of grey. If something has not turned out as well as expected, it is thought of as wholly negative. This results in using words such as never, every and always.



When we overgeneralise, we see the whole situation as being represented by a single event or aspect. For example, we might think that because we have a difficult conversation with a person that they are always going to be difficult to deal with.


Jumping to Conclusions

This is our tendency to interpret things when there are no facts to support our conclusion. It includes;

  • Mind Reading - without checking it out, we believe we know what the other person is thinking or has done.
  • Fortune-telling - we predict what is going to happen or what someone is going to think.



This is when we think that something should be done. It could be something that we tell ourselves we should do or what others should do. It can lead to feelings of guilt in ourselves and others. It can also lead to feelings of anger and frustration when the things we think should be done, are not.

Shoulding can also lead to conflict and rebellion in yourself and others. We sometimes try to motivate ourselves by telling ourselves that we should do something, or try to motivate others in the same way. But while part of us wants to do the thing, another part of us wants to resist and rebel.

Shoulding can also be expressed as must, have to and ought to.



Labelling is an extreme form of all-or-nothing thinking. It goes beyond seeing things in black and white, by attaching labels to yourself and others based on a single event. You might think that someone is an 'idiot' because they have made a mistake, ignoring all the other evidence that they are competent.

There can also be a tendency to label their character, rather than realise that it is their thinking or behaviour that we are reacting to.

You can find more information in these articles:

How Distorted Thinking Increases Stress and Anxiety - Psychology Today

Stinkin' Thinkin' - The Ten Forms of Twisted Thinking - Out of the Fog