Critical thinking skills are vital to our functionality and success in our personal and professional lives. In our personal lives, we must contend with an onslaught of information that an untrained mind might consider the truth and we may react or make decisions that are not in our best interest. And although our workplaces are supported by policies, standard operating procedures, kaizens and kanbans, employees must still be able to assess a situation and make an independent decision accordingly.
Critical thinking questions. It seeks the truth. John Chafee in The Thinker’s Way describes 10 qualities expert critical thinkers display. Expert critical thinkers are open-minded, knowledgeable, mentally active, curious, independent thinkers, skilled discussants, insightful, self-aware of their own biases, creative and passionate. It’s going within ourselves to analyze a situation, evaluate claims, draw good inferences, supply sound reasons, check for missing information, and self-regulate our judgment and response. Critical thinkers care to get it right – to obtain the best decision or solution possible, seek as many alternatives as possible, present a reasonable, rational, logical defendable position, express empathy and open-mindedness when obtaining other points of view, and relax the ego to stay open to the truth.
From a Type function perspective, critical thinking skills are supported by the mental functions of Extroverted and Introverted Thinking. Individuals with a type code that includes a preference for the Thinking functions, i.e. ISTJ, ESTJ, INTP, INTJ, may discover a natural ability to analyze, clarify, verify data, deduce and make value judgments. Yet, all individuals have the capacity to use the Thinking mental functions, to develop them to a functional level and to be able to call on them when needed.
Thinking takes time. Sometimes we find waiting for a decision from others to be a sign of weakness. The perceived indecisiveness may be labeled as a weakness rather than a strength of critically examining information, asking questions, hearing as many sides as possible, listening to other’s supporting evidence for logic and reason, analyzing arguments and making value judgments. Sometimes we want that agreement, that connection with the other person, that immediate response. Using this as an example, when labeling indecisiveness as a weakness, do you have all the necessary information to make that judgment? Have you determined the complexity of the situation, the environment, the risks, consequences, of all parties involved?
When working with or for a person who has a preference for Thinking, particularly Introverted Thinking in the dominant position, i.e. INTP and ISTP, be patient. Allow time for a response. Be prepared for carefully selected questions. Prepare supporting documentation or evidence. And consider your own communication style. Are you impatient when asked “20 questions?” Do you understand the need for “20 questions?” Do you tend to speak in generalities rather than specifics?
Human nature tends to have us jump to conclusions or create opinions from very little information. If your Thinking is not in your first or second most natural function, consider activities that will help develop this function. It doesn’t need to be a difficult first step. Consider a simple everyday activity such as watching the news or reading one magazine or online article. Next time, think about the following questions:
Do I have enough information to create an opinion about the subject matter or issue?
If so, what is my opinion?
Is my opinion informed by evidence or reason?
Can I state why I have the opinion I do with clarity and evidence, compelling reason and intelligence?
If I state my opinion and reason for the opinion, does it make “sense?”
Take a moment. Take sequences of breaths. Think and not react. Ask yourself five questions towards exploring truth. In the words of Socrates “An unexamined life is not worth living.”