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Traits of Critical Thinkers That Make Them Become High Performers

Traits of Critical Thinkers That Make Them Become High Performers

We are living in the age of “fake news” and “alternative facts”, straight up lying seems to be an accepted part of news and politics. Because of this, simply being able to tell exactly what is going on can be difficult. To be able to think critically is now a very important skill.

Though what exactly is critical thinking? Critical thinking is when you are presented with a piece of information and engage with it independently [1] and actively to discern how accurate it is. Too often we are encouraged to be passive with news and information, it can seem sometimes that we are being told how to react, think, and feel by the media or other sources.

This is avoided if you think critically. If you think critically you will be guided through life by your own observations [2], knowledge, and experience, and not be led.

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5 Traits of skilled critical thinkers

But what exactly are the benefits? Surely it can’t just come down to being able to watch the news objectively? Well, that’s true, there are many, many benefits of being a great critical thinker, here are just five.

  • Skilled at finding the subtle links between two different pieces of information to form a larger whole.
  • Good at turning their critical thinking skills inwards, and as such can pick up and judge their own biases [3] or prejudices, which is the key for their ultimate removal.
  • More desirous to remain well informed and knowledgeable as information governs their worldview.
  • More open-minded as critical thinkers by their nature can think for themselves. There is none the less the openness for their minds to change when new information is presented.
  • More creative [4] as whatever you write, draw, film, sculpt, paint, dance, act, or whatever you love to do, has tiny traces of the work of other similar great artists who came before.

A critical mind can take these influences and use them effectively, also, the open mindedness of a critical thinker means that they won’t shoot down any ideas that come to their mind. Something which, you may well know, can stop a creative project in its tracks.

How to boost your critical thinking skills

In this article so far I’ve described those who can think critically as if they were a different breed. This is certainly not the case. Critical thinking is a skill, and like any skill, it can be gained and improved.

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Open up your range of sources

It’s totally natural to listen to those we know we will agree with, we might only watch the same news channel or use the same websites just because they follow our worldview. However, even good sources tend to follow certain biases. These biases will be invisible if that is all we see, so it can be important to reach out and investigate other sources, especially ones we don’t agree with.

It’s like what F Scott Fitzgerald said:

The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function

Analyze what you hear by asking the following questions

  • Who/what said it? (EG, who are they to you, what do you know about them)
  • What did they say? (EG, What was the exact content of what they said? Was it fact? Opinion? Or was it opinion disguised as fact?)
  • Why did they say it? (EG, what could they have to gain by relaying this info to you, can it be to just inform you, or do you have to agree with them?)

These questions, and questions like them are the fundamental grounding of critical thinking.

Apply variations of these questions to your own mind

Much like the one providing you might have hidden biases, it’s possible that you might as well. To be aware of them will immediately improve your critical thinking ability.

Don’t take anything at face value

It’s inevitable that people will be guided by their own motives [5] . Because of this anything done or said may be done with these specific motives (possibly self serving motives) in mind. I don’t mean to be suspicious, it is the natural way of things. But assuming that all is not what it seems in regards to what you see enables the process for you to begin to think critically.

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Apply Occam’s Razor

The world, paradoxically, is both infinitely complex and impossibly simple. As such, that old saying “Whatever the simplest solution is, is probably the correct one” is so common, because it is so true. If a piece of information seems needlessly complicated, it may well be, and if you consider why it is being presented this way, this may pave the way for you to find a larger truth in it.

Applying critical thinking to what you are presented with can have a revolutionary, and immediate impact on how you see the world…use with caution!

Reference

[1] SkillsYouNeed: Critical Thinking Skills
[2] TheCriticalThinkingCommunity: Defining Critical Thinking
[3] InsightAssessment: Characteristics of Strong Critical Thinkers
[4] CriticalThinkers: 6 Powerful Characteristics of Great Critical Thinkers
[5] WiseBread: 7 Steps to Improving Your Critical Thinking

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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