I have a Twitter search set up for the words “critical thinking” and receive an alert in my Google Reader anytime someone tweets that phrase. I have found some really great quotes, articles, and ideas based on this search. I have also seen many insults hurled in the name of dounouncing someone else’s “lack of critical thinking.” Sadly, when I have read the conversation threads, more often than not it is simply a case of two people who hold opposing political or religious beliefs.
Instead of engaging one another in a conversation, removing emotion, evaluating arguments, and seeking to understand one another’s point of view, each individual shuts down logical reasoning and turns to anger and condescension. Telling someone that they lack critical thinking ability will not advance any conversation. The best way to teach critical thinking is to model it.
When someone engages you in a debate about something highly emotional, follow the RED Model of Critical Thinking to avoid ending the conversation with insults and disengagement.
- Identify Fact and Opinion (theirs and yours)
- Ask questions
- Consider the alternative point of view
- Don’t assume that there is one correct answer
- Question the source/credibility of information (theirs and yours)
- Check your emotions. Take a 10 second breather before responding to an emotional statement.
- Ask unbiased outsiders to weigh in or moderate the conversation.
- Seek points of commonality with your partner.
- Acknowledge that the topic is subjective and a unanimous conclusion may not be possible.
- Remember that winning an argument is less important than maintaining respect with a friend, family member or colleague.
- Be prepared to walk away from the conversation if it turns into a mud-slinging match.
- Find areas of agreement, and emphasize those points as a “win.”
By modeling critical thinking for others you will not only build respect among colleagues, but will be seen as someone who is logical, rational, and able to rise above conflict.
The best way to show that a stick is crooked is not to argue about it or to spend time denouncing it, but to lay a straight stick alongside it
– D. L. Moody
Editor’s Note: Breanne Harris is the Solutions Architect for Pearson TalentLens. She works with customers to design selection and development plans that incorporate critical thinking assessments and training. She has a Master’s degree in Organizational Psychology and has experience in recruiting, training, and HR consulting. She is the chief blogger for Critical Thinkers and occasionally posts at ThinkWatson. Connect with her on LinkedIn and Twitter for more of her thoughts.