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Most of Us Are Similar When We’re Small, but Then Critical Thinking Differentiates Us

Most of Us Are Similar When We’re Small, but Then Critical Thinking Differentiates Us

From the moment we are born, the process of conditioning begins. This is a necessity of course, and is the key to our survival. Our guardians help us to feel the comfort and safety of the world outside the womb. We are guided to feed, sleep and communicate in the first days and weeks of our lives. As our cognitive skills grow and our awareness sharpens, we start to learn the ways of the people responsible for keeping us alive. Our years of learning begin even before we go out into the world to assimilate into society and join the myriad of institutions and social systems that will shape us into hopefully intelligent, independent and functioning adults.

We must learn how to collect information, assess situations and make decisions. This is called Critical Thinking and will enable us to live successful and fulfilling lives.

Critical thinking is the ability to objectively assess information in order to make sound judgement. From the smallest decisions to the most complex, this ability will determine the trajectory of our life.

Knowing how to perfect critical thinking relies on a number of traits that develop over time; by learning from example, trial and error and eventual self-determination. Identifying these traits and allowing them to become like second nature will facilitate critical thinking and studies [1] have shown that critical thinking disposition is not necessarily inherent, it needs to be taught, practiced, developed and perfected.

Here are ten traits of sound critical thinking skills.

Empathy

You need to be able to put yourself in someone else’s shoes, to be able to think critically. That means imaging yourself experiencing something that someone else is going through.

Impartiality

You must be able to exercise objectivity. That means looking at an issue from two opposing sides and considering all the factors in between.

Evidence

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You require facts. It is no good merely hypothesizing. You need to look at proven and tested information that support various aspects of an issue or decision.

Creativity

You need to be able to think laterally. Can you come to a decision unconventionally? Sometimes, the answer is not immediately obvious and needs a diverse perspective.

Ethics

You must ask what is the benefit and the cost? Do your decisions have adverse impacts on others? Are you only advantaging yourself? What is the collateral damage if any?

Survival

You must weigh up and take risks. Sometimes you must make a tough decision to preserve something more important. The easiest and safest choice is not always the right one.

Competition

You need to stay relevant without becoming arrogant. Winning at all cost is not the aim, but taking challenges and achieving goals despite the obstacles can be rewarding.

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Research

Do you have all the information? Is it current, relevant, peer reviewed, authentic? What are your personal biases and prejudices?

Justice

Is it the right thing to do? Not only for yourself, but more broadly. Will there be consequences and are you willing to stand by your decision.

Self-assurance

Where is your confidence coming from? A place of privilege or achievement and hardship? Have you earned it?

Critical thinking is vital in ensuring not only your ability to face life’s challenges but in particular to embrace reality and realize truth. Without critical thinking, it is easy to be mislead, manipulated, undermined and disadvantaged.

Here are 10 ways to improve your critical thinking disposition.

Ask questions

Questioning is one of the most powerful tools for critical thinking. You don’t have to accept anything without thoroughly exploring its intricacies. The more answers you get, the more questions they will raise. This is a good thing.

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You must be willing to research and get educated. People before you have done some of the work already. Take advantage of this and equip yourself with information from a broad range of sources.

Look at the opposing argument

Don’t simply look for the information that will confirm your point of view. In fact, look for the opposite. The people, information and arguments you disagree with are the best things to help you think critically. You need to understand the other side of the issue, practice empathy and either solidify your viewpoint or be swayed toward a new one.

Listen to the experts

Seek out academics, professionals, elders and those who have traveled your path before. What are you deciding and who has made similar decisions? There’s a good chance they have some practical and sound advice to impart.

Consider your own experiences

Don’t sell yourself short. Acknowledge your own unique point of view and life journey. What have you got to add to the scenario? How does your unique vision and story contribute to the decision making process?

Investigate history

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Look to the past for answers. Obtain information about the way things have manifested, how they were established and developed to the present day. Is there a timeline for the information you are trying to obtain? How will your decision contribute to this in the future?

Learn from your mistakes

Don’t be afraid to fail and let that prevent you from trying again. Often the times we have faltered are where the best lessons lie. Learning from the failure of others can be valuable also.

Do things differently

If you adhere to the same old patterns and habits, you can’t expect a different result. Sometimes you have to do things that are outside your comfort zone, that seem foreign and unfamiliar, in order to achieve a new outcome.

Have courage to be contrary

Learn to go against the grain. Nobody ever achieved anything significant, simply following the heard. Sometimes the lone voice of reason, in the face of a crowd of loud conflicting voices, is the right one.

Be willing to change your mind

When presented with new information, you may have to let go of everything you have known and change your position. Discard your cognitive dissonance and have the emotional maturity to admit you were wrong and take a new position.

Reference

More by this author

Diane Koopman

Writer, Author, Novelist, Self-Publisher

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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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