Build Your Critical Thinking Skills
Critical thinking is using rational, clear minded thought along with unbiased evidence. You can teach yourself this by asking questions. That is one action we can always take to create our own opinions and to find solutions. Everyone has an opinion and many people want others to think just like them. Those in power are very often willing to spin facts into half truths or flat out lies so they can keep their authority and power. We do not have to automatically believe what we are told or shows. We are each capable of questioning, researching, and evaluating what we learn. The world we inhabit is not stuck in place, right and wrong, or black and white. New information is brought to our attention on a constant basis. We are always evolving. Change is an important, valuable, and inevitable gift of life. Critical thinking is a must for our society to progress. Question, Research, Evaluate and Decide for yourself.
Question: Why is it important? Who told you? Where did you get your information? What is your evidence?
Research: Look up your questions at the library, online, and ask experts.. Who says this is true? Who paid for this study? What do they have to gain? It is biased? Why is it important? Where did you get your information?
Evaluate: Compare disagreeing sources. Does it all fit together? Are there holes in the argument? Is this an issue based on personal experience, religious beliefs, or scientific fact?
THINK for yourself!
Learn Successful Problem Solving
Problems can seem out of our control when another person is involved. Below is an action plan you can use to keep situations from blowing up into a bigger problem and to keep feelings and egos from being hurt. This action plan is one I use and was created from both my education and experiences. If you can master the first step of neutralizing your emotions instead of becoming defensive or angry the other steps will be easier because then you are thinking with a clear mind.
Memorize These Steps
1) Calm your emotions.
2) Identify the root of the problem.
3) Control the argument before it escalates.
4) Find a solution or compromise.
5) Walk away without burning bridges.
1) Calm Your Emotions
Consciously make a choice to calm yourself and neutralize your emotions. Allowing your emotions to run wild can cause you to become irrational. Focus on the root of the problem, the real issue at hand. In the beginning it is important to not get caught up in drama or all the little points. Focus on the biggest point and go from there. Don’t get caught up in fighting a war. Instead neutralize the battle and turn it into a discussion.
What do I have at stake?
Is this an argument I can win?
Do I need to win this time or can I walk away with a loss that won’t ruin everything else?
Will this turn into a long term problem?
Is it only a problem in the short term?
Does this remind me of a problem before that went unresolved?
If so, how could I have resolved that problem?
2) Identify The Root.
Start by figuring out if the problem is caused by a situation or person. We all have bad days or moods that can cause a simple problem or disagreement to grow into a huge storm. Sometimes we are forced to deal with someone who is either creating a problem or escalating it.
Is this situation causing problems?
Is a person creating a problem?
Is the other person being mean or just reacting to the problem?
Is the other person acting difficult and arguing because this is how they solve their problems?
Is this a person who is always difficult?
Are they in a position of power and used to taking what they want no matter what?
Are they purposely making the problem worse?
3) Control the argument or problem from escalating.
Start a dialogue. Ask the other person to explain their side instead of simply attacking. Then explain your side. If the person is threatening you it might be time to move to a safe space or a neutral environment. Empathize with the other person instead of opposing them. Ask them questions. Giving someone a chance to explain their story may not be our first instinct so it has both the element of surprise and allows other people to feel like they are being heard. Not everybody is going to want to talk it out and in that case you need to move on finding a solution, a compromise, or walking away.
What do you feel is wrong?
Why is this important to you?
What do you fear to lose if this doesn’t go your way?
Does this remind you of a similar situation in the past that did not work out?
If so how could you have solved that problem?
Can you control the outcome by changing your view?
If this problem does not need to be solved immediately you can take some time to reach out and ask for assistance?
Who are your allies?
Who can you ask that is neutral on the subject?
Can you find a mediator?
Can you ask a supervisor?
4) Find a Solution and Compromise
Find a Solution!
What are all our options?
What would be the pros and cons of doing it this way or that way?
What if we took part of the problem away? Then could we find a solution to the rest of the problem?
Ask each other, what would you do in the other person’s position?
How will this solution keep the problem from worsening?
Can you find an alternative solution?
Can both of you find something to let go of?
What can we do differently to keep this from happening again?
5) Walk Away.
Some problems cannot be solved right away. There are times when we or another person aren’t willing to budge. We all have bad days, so don’t be too harsh. On the other hand some people are not willing to find solutions or compromise. If this is the case you may want to walk away and stay clear of them. If both of you have reviewed all the options and cannot agree on a solution or compromise than it is time to take a break or move on.
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