Easier said than done, I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m doing a piece for our July issue of HR Matters on critical thinking skills. In my research, I found an organisation in the US devoted to this, called The Center for Critical Thinking. This organisation conducts advanced research and disseminates information on critical thinking. There’s an article online on their website called Becoming a Critic of Your Thinking, which was adapted from the book, Critical Thinking : Tools for Taking Charge of Your Learning and Your Life, authored by Richard Paul and Linda Elder. It is definitely worth the time to read this in a quiet place and reflect.
I think for some of us, there is a constant battle between the head and heart – what the brain says and what our emotions convey. Marrying the two is ever the challenge and I wonder if one always needs to trump the other. Emotion has always been given short shrift compared to the beauty of a well-reasoned argument. But there is a place for both to reside, to co-exist happily together, or we would not have the two elements in us.
When you are faced with particular circumstances, it is often the task of critical thought to sieve through the facts and situation and make sense of it. Ask yourself the right questions about what it is before you so that you are better positioned to make sense of the occasion, derive some conclusions and make decisions. Ultimately though, depending on the volality or seriousness of the situation, emotion comes into play. Some people argue that emotion is there for a reason, to guide you, to make sense of the other aspects you cant quite pinpoint. Some would argue the lesser qualities of emotion – the anger, the upheaval, the immediacy of the reaction – make you ill-equipped to fully grasp a situation. I believe you need both the head and heart in any given situation to make an assessment. It is the combination of the two, balancing each other that can provide a better picture of what is before you.
But it needs to be a balanced view. There must be rational thought and processing of information in a logical manner as well as the emotional response. There’s nothing to guide a decision based on emotion other than the emotion. I am just angry about it, I feel sad about it. It is reactionary. To guide you, you should ask yourself, why it is that you have that particular emotion. What factors are upsetting you and why that in particular? Going down that path may surprise you.
But it is an approach that takes into consideration the facts as presented and that weighs it up which is rational, balanced and critical. When you are faced with important decisions, you know how you feel about it. The feeling is already present if you open yourself to the emotion within. But what you think about it – that’s a different matter. There’s far more involved. You’ve got to sieve through facts and scenarios, you’ve got to weigh pros and cons, arguments and rebuttals and you’ve got to make an assessment based on all of the above. It is methodical and precise. There is comfort in knowing that an assessment based on the facts is a better approach than just a gut feel or how your heart feels at the moment.
And so, the first step in the right direction is to honestly evaluate whether you are thinking critically through your problems or issues. Thinking, as opposed to, feeling through your problems. The article above will help you decide if you’ve been doing just that and also give you pointers on the sorts of questions you have to ask yourself in order to critically evaluate anything.
Ask yourself questions, no doubt. But make no mistake about it – it’s very much about asking yourself the right questions. Asking the right questions puts you on the path to discovering the right answers. Asking the wrong questions take you further away from discovering what you need and can lead to more confusion.