Thinking About Thinking

"There is nothing more practical than sound thinking. No matter what your circumstance or goals, no matter where you are, or what problems you face, you are better off if your thinking is skilled. As a manager, leader, employee, citizen, lover, friend, parent — in every realm and situation of your life — good thinking pays off. Poor thinking, in turn, inevitably causes problems, wastes time and energy, engenders frustration and pain....

Consider the following key ideas, which, when applied, result in a mind practicing skilled thinking - sticking to the point (thinking with relevance), questioning deeply, and striving to be more reasonable...

1. Clarify Your Thinking

Be on the look-out for vague, fuzzy, formless, blurred thinking. Try to figure out the real meaning of what people are saying...Explain your understanding of an issue to someone else to help clarify it in your own mind. Practice summarizing in your own words what others say. Then ask them if you understood them correctly... When you cannot do this to their satisfaction, you don’t really understand what they said. When they cannot summarize what you have said to your satisfaction, they don’t really understand what you said. Try it. See what happens.

Strategies for Clarifying Your Thinking

-State one point at a time
-Elaborate on what you mean
-Give examples that connect your thoughts to life experiences
-Use analogies and metaphors to help people connect your ideas to a variety of things they already understand...

2. Stick to the Point...

When thinking is relevant, it is focused on the main task at hand. It selects what is germane, pertinent, and related. It is on the alert for everything that connects to the issue. It sets aside what is immaterial, inappropriate, extraneous, and beside the point...

Ask These Questions to Make Sure
Thinking is Focused on What is Relevant

-Am I focused on the main problem or task?
-How is this connected? How is that?
-Does my information directly relate to the problem or task?
-Where do I need to focus my attention?
-Are we being diverted to unrelated matters?
-Am I failing to consider relevant viewpoints?
-How is your point relevant to the issue we are addressing?
-What facts are actually going to help us answer the question? What considerations should be set aside?
-Does this truly bear on the question? How does it connect?

3. Question Questions

Examine the extent to which you are a questioner, or simply one who accepts the definitions of situations given by others...Good thinkers routinely ask questions in order to understand and effectively deal with the world around them. They question the status quo. They know that things are often different from the way they are presented. Their questions penetrate images, masks, fronts, and propaganda. Their questions make real problems explicit and discipline their thinking through those problems. If you become a student of questions, you can learn to ask powerful questions that lead to a deeper and more fulfilling life. Your questions become more basic, essential, and deep...

4. Be Reasonable...

Notice when you are unwilling to listen to the views of others, when you simply see yourself as right and others as wrong. Ask yourself at those moments whether their views might have any merit... One of the hallmarks of a critical thinker is the disposition to change one’s mind when given good reason to change. Good thinkers want to change their thinking when they discover better thinking. They can be moved by reason. Yet, comparatively few people are reasonable. Few are willing to change their minds once set. Few are willing to suspend their beliefs to fully hear the views of those with which they disagree. How would you rate yourself?..."

Read much more in this excellent article from CriticalThinking.org from which the foregoing was quoted.