Have you ever thought to yourself someone was “the worst” or “my friend is the best”? Perhaps
you have considered how you have the worst boss or how you are a terrible person because of
something you did one time. These are examples of black-and-white thinking and are thoughts
almost everyone has from time to time. Nevertheless, these thoughts can be rather dangerous
when they begin to dominate how we see ourselves, our world, and those around us. Sometimes
black-and-white thinking can lead us to miss out on the complexity of ideas or the beauty of
relationships. When we think of our political party as having all the answers and ignore the ideas
of all the others, we can become stuck in a pattern of groupthink, grow in anger toward those
who do not agree with us, and miss out on opportunities for development if we took the time to
listen to one another.
When we see a friend, romantic partner, co-worker, or family member as being either “all good”
or “all bad,” then we miss out on the beauty that lies within the complexity of relationships.
Anyone who has ever been in a serious relationship knows you can love someone, while at the
same time being frustrated with them. Moving away from seeing people as “good” and others as
“bad” can help us to see the complex characteristics exhibited by those in our lives. Perhaps a
friend insulted you due to their own insecurities and is just desperate to feel accepted. Maybe
your spouse does something annoying; however, he/she continues to engage in many habits that
help you to feel loved. It is possible your mother yelled at you; however, she may have praised
you many times as well.
Focusing on your day as being all bad, thinking of your friends as all good, despising a parent,
and idolizing a peer are all examples of black-and-white thinking. These thoughts may be
preventing you from experiencing some of the fullness and richness of life. Decreasing black-
and-white thinking can improve your mood, increase success, strengthen relationships, and help
you to grow as a person by increasing the depth of your thought and opening yourself up to new