Critical thinking is a skill like any other. It is the ability to focus on an issue, examine all possible and potential solutions, determine the probable impact each solution may create and make a decision accordingly. Compare it to a muscle. The more it is used, the stronger it becomes.
There are two deterrents to critical thinking - emotions and lack of focus. Emotions when problem solving are probably one of the most invasive components that deters success. When emotions are high, objective thinking is lost. If emotions become the motivator, the priority can easily be to address them as opposed to solving the problem.
Emotions personalize a problem, creating a defensive or offensive response. The defensive response is the need to protect any further hurt or feelings of frustration. The offensive response is the desire to get even or lash back at the individual(s) who created the problem or did not follow-through as promised. The adage of taking a deep breath and relax, is significant here. Any response that is not objective will complicate the solution. It forces whoever created or contributed to the problem to lash out or protect themselves. In this scenario solving the actual problem is no longer the priority.
Lack of focus is what complicates problem solving and makes finding a solution overwhelming. It is the intent to address all of the secondary issues associated with a problem at the same time as resolving the primary issue. Trying to correct everything in one felt swoop, makes resolving the problem more complicated than it is and negates success.
How to develop the muscles of Critical Thinking. For some, strengthening a skill like this requires some structure. Here are a few tips:
1) Write down how you feel about the situation if your emotions have been peaked. Write down what you need to do that would satisfy you. Then set this aside. Best to look at it again when you feel calmer and more objective.
2) Identify “the issue or problem” that must be addressed right now.
3) Identify the secondary issues that will need to be addressed or clarified. Set those aside for now.
4) Focusing only on “the issue or primary problem”, identify all possible solutions. Discard any that have an emotional rationale behind them.
Strengthening muscles requires a formal exercise program. Strengthening your critical thinking skill may also require a formal exercise program.
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