Critical thinking is in critical condition in our nation, and the epidemic is fueled by the desire to snap off witty responses, make sense of our world in our own way, stand our ground, show loyalty, defend ourselves and loved ones, and so much more.
Social media has given voice to the voiceless in many instances, as many people will say over the electronic airwaves what they would not say in person – protected by the distance between themselves and the intended recipient of their comments.
Critical thinking requires some basic skills and habits, and our nation as a whole could use some lessons in these habits and would benefit from practicing them so that we can spend more time lifting each other up rather than tearing each other down.
According to an article on the American Management Association website titled, “Eight Habits and Critical Thinking Characteristics,” by Stephen L. Guinn, Ph.D. and Gary A. Williamson, Ph.D., there are eight basic habits of critical thinkers.
If we all learn and practice these habits, we could create less drama for ourselves and others.
Critical thinkers, when faced with a problem are more concerned with getting something right than being right. This means they avoid jumping to conclusions or rushing judgments. They also avoid accepting information at face value.
Instead, critical thinkers take the time to gather information, consider possible ways to interpret what they are seeing or hearing, and consider their sources and the evidence provided by those sources before making any conclusions.
Critical thinkers stop to think before they speak, and construct their words carefully, because they understand that what they say and how they say it matters. Their words matter because each word carries with it a meaning and a connotation, which is a feeling or degree of feeling associated with a word. Using one word over another can lead to misunderstandings.
If we say that you need to look in the article for the facts that relate to the meth epidemic, then you are likely to scan rather than read for the information. If I want you to read for the facts, I should say read for the facts.
Too often, we get lazy and think one word is just as good as another, but really, that is not the case. Our words are important, and they build the path to communication whether they are written or spoken.
As critical thinkers, we reflect on the words that we use, the thoughts we have, the actions we take, the knowledge we have or do not have, and then we decide our next move. A critical thinker has the confidence to make a decision and move forward, and the courage to acknowledge when a bad decision leads to unfortunate consequences.
Critical thinkers learn from their mistakes and make efforts not to repeat them.
Finally, critical thinkers take care to share their thinking and knowledge with others so that people can understand their thinking, and they take care to listen to others and value other perspectives.
The problems rest in those who do not practice critical thinking, jump to conclusions, pass unsupported judgments with assumptions and hearsay, blame others for their own mistakes, or are so afraid to do something wrong, they do nothing.
When a critical thinker meets someone who is not a critical thinker, there is often a frustration that comes out through name calling, and if not practiced, the critical thinker gets sucked into that cycle of non-critical thinking and behavior.
Critical thinking is not easy, and it takes as much effort and practice as it does to prepare for a marathon race – maybe even more.
However, if we all spent some time reflecting on our behaviors and actions using critical thinking skills and habits, we might spend less time wrapped up in meaningless drama.