Following the critical thinking RED Model isn’t always easy. Perhaps the most difficult component for me is to set my emotions aside and remain objective – a technique to evaluate arguments. I don’t necessarily get emotional because I’m sensitive but because I’m invested in my projects and work. We all get emotionally invested in daily tasks that it sometimes becomes easy to lose sight of the unbiased situation without emotionally reacting.
Great critical thinkers are able to remain objective, even in the most emotional of situations. They are able to remove their emotional investment, anxiety, sensitivities and even fears to stay focused and on task. But for those of us who may need a little extra help, here are my 3 critical thinking techniques to overcome any emotional situation:
- Restate the objective. It’s easy when emotions run high to lose sight of the immediate goal. By taking a moment – even if you’re alone – to restate your object you’re able to refocus your efforts.
- Calmly communicate. In one of my undergraduate communication courses I learned the power of calm communication. Think about it: it becomes increasingly difficult to scream and someone who continues to speak to you calmly, with a soft and mellifluous tone. Alternatively, it becomes infinitely easier to get excited and aggressive as you sense others scream around you. The screaming can be replaced with defensiveness, aggression, or any number of emotionally charged adjectives but the trend remains the same – the calmer you communicate, the calmer the interaction. In emotionally charged situations (both positive & negative) it’s easy to become wrapped up in the excitement of the situation, which infringes your ability to critically think. Instead, make a conscious effort to use a slow, soft tone when you speak and be mindful of your nonverbal ques. You may notice that others follow your lead and that you feel calmer, yourself.
- Take a time out. Sometimes it’s better to just walk away from the situation and return when you’ve had a chance to calm down. Do not be mistaken – it is far less professional to say nothing but get overly worked up than it is to admit that you’re too invested and need a moment before you can revisit the issue with a more calm and objective lens. You could suggest talking about something else, rescheduling the meeting or simply taking five minutes to get a cup of coffee. But before you revisit the issue remind yourself of the immediate goal and remember to calmly communicate.
Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Elizabeth Pauker-Silva