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Published on December 16, 2019

7 Ways Thinking Aloud Makes You a Better Thinker and Learner

7 Ways Thinking Aloud Makes You a Better Thinker and Learner

It is never a sign of insanity to think aloud, it also enhances your mental ability. It is also called private speech. It enables you to achieve focus. It is a behavioral pattern that you should practice daily to achieve self-regulation.

As a child, you learned by thinking aloud. It was a form of demonstrating your knowledge or opening yourself to learn

You sound out words, express ideas, form sentences. Anytime you were corrected, you rehearse until you have imitated correctly or conformed to the established model in the family, school, or neighborhood, etc.

As you grow older, you internalize this act of thinking aloud, and your speech shifts to interpersonal communication.

So what are the seven ways thinking aloud can help you think and learn better?

1. Spur Curiosity During Learning

The goal of curiosity is to enable you to gain a more in-depth knowledge of things that are crucial within the scope of our experience of the world. This covers the concepts you have learned in school and those that are relevant to your daily lives.

Individuals who think aloud are usually curious about the different range of topics and develop broad interests. Thinking aloud helps you retain inquisitiveness about people and the world around you. It enables you to gain an in-depth understanding of beliefs, culture, and viewpoints that are shared aspects of what makes us human. Those who think aloud are lifelong learners.

They are lifelong learners because they are naturally and practice critical thinking. Thinking aloud will help you apply your best thinking habit to solve complex problems. It also helps you to achieve constructive outcomes.

As you think aloud, you will find answers to crucial questions. You don’t make decisions based on assumptions, but you can explore the topics deeper. You also gain deeper facts locked up within the information.

2. Enhance Your Creativity

Creativity is one of the most significant skills you need to survive beyond school. Learners who think aloud nurtures their creativity and the ability to solve problems. It is a requisite skill to collaborate in the workplace.

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The tendency to think aloud means you can transfer the same knowledge and process to more complex problems to achieve effective results.

Thinking aloud is relevant in business, marketing, and professional networks. It helps you to develop creativity on how to advertise, increase revenue, and advance your career.

You will also learn to question assumptions about different topics. When you think aloud, you ask ‘how’ or ‘why not?

Private speech has limitless potentials. This applies to young and old learners. It will enable you to train your brain to be creative.

3. Reinforce Your Problem-Solving Skill

You become an instinctual problem solver when you think aloud. Problem-solving has been ranked to be the most crucial ability that you can build on as a learner. You will be positioned to address complex by thinking aloud about how to engineer innovative solutions.

Albert Einstein once said,

‘ It’s not that I am smart; it’s just that I stay with problems longer.’

He once propounded that when you are allocated one hour to perform a task, spend 55 minutes to define and research the problem while you spend 5 minutes to solve it. Private speech affords you this kind of commitment and patience. It is also the very reason you will learn how to understand the problem and solve it effectively.

Thinking aloud also positions you to face complex problems to survive, succeed, and be significant in life.

When you think aloud, you can curate solutions to big problems such as overpopulation, global warming, water shortages, energy crises, pollution, need for health care, and electronic waste management etc.

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As these problems and others continue to evolve, those who think aloud would continue to be relevant in producing lasting solutions to them.

4. Cultivate Multi-Faceted Skill

As you think aloud, you are nurturing, not just a skill, but many skills.

Thinking aloud is a cross-curricular cognitive talent. It exercises your mind, and once your mind is empowered, you will not only stay healthy, but you will be more productive.

Thinking aloud enhances your:

  • Observational skills
  • Reasoning skills
  • Logical thinking
  • Evaluative skills
  • Language skills
  • Organizational and planning skills
  • Open-mindedness
  • Creative visualization methods
  • Decision making

The list is inexhaustive, but this is an overview of what you develop and promote when you think aloud in your daily lives.

5. Foster Independence

Thinking aloud helps you think independently, which is of the most essential learning goals. It helps you to become independent during the learning process.

You don’t depend on the instructor to achieve learning outcomes, but you learn to take responsibility for your learning. The keyword here is ‘responsibility.’ When you learn how to be more responsible while learning, you can learn how to take charge of your life.

Thinking aloud will not only position you as a great learner but a great thinker and leader. You will learn how to appreciate the world from your point of view and experience. You become more confident, and you learn from your mistakes as you build a successful and productive life.

Thinking aloud helps you to be self-directed as a learner. Your thinking becomes organized. It also means this kind of proactive thinking ability becomes part of you as you nurture it through the lifelong learner.

When you are successful in your thinking ability, you can make progress beyond learning in your future pursuits and relationship with pride and confidence.

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6. Improve Your Reading Comprehension

You become motivated to identify the distinctions between reading words and understanding the text when you apply the process of thinking aloud. You also gain insights into the reading complexities and expand your understanding of what it means to be a great reader.

How does this apply to life? You will learn how to read through assumptions and base your knowledge on realities.

7. Develop a Life Skill

You develop a lifelong skill, not just a learning skill, as you think aloud. According to John Dewey,

‘Education is not preparation for life; it is life itself.’

Thinking aloud helps you to become successful within and beyond the classroom. You learn how to lead your life through life.

The bottom line is you don’t need your teachers once you have completed a learning phase; you become the leader and the teacher. Learning also becomes a continuum for you.

How to Adopt the Thinking Aloud Strategy

Thinking aloud or private speed is a crucial learning tool. The more you engage your brain in different dimensions, the more you can connect and retain what you learn.

You read, create diagrams or pictures, use motion or music, converse with others, and with yourself. Most time, you talk through with your friends or in a group to recall a topic you have learned. In other cases, you may not need a second party to think aloud.

Thinking aloud helps you to leverage multiple senses and personal experiences in processing and to reinforce your learning.

You can think aloud to:

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  • memorize vocabulary by vocalizing the words
  • talk through mathematical problems to arrive at possible solutions
  • edit papers by reading the words aloud
  • appreciate poetry through dramatization.

Here are three ways to think aloud:

1. Spot the Juicy Tipping Points

The first approach to adopt if you want to think aloud is to sift through the text.

Read the text while holding your sticky notes, search for spots to make inferences, ask questions or think through the intent of the author. These are the juicy tipping points that lead to the next challenge or comprehension opportunities.

2. Know When and Where to Think Aloud

Examine each tipping point and reflect on the purpose of the point. This will help you scale down the points to more manageable points, so you don’t become overburdened or detracted from the process.

You need to also factor in the purpose of picking the text you want to learn, your objective, and the strategies you are familiar with before reading the text.

3. Write on Sticky Notes

Writing on sticky notes provides a guide for your thought pattern during the learning process.

It helps you to stick to what’s significant and discard what’s less prominent. It also helps you to be purposeful throughout the learning process.

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If you want to be a great thinker and a lifelong learner, thinking aloud shouldn’t be a one-time exercise for you, but an all-the-time endeavor. You will become productive in your personal life and also become relevant to the world.

More About Thinking Smart

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

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Leon Ho

Founder & CEO of Lifehack

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Published on May 26, 2020

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

7 Most Effective Problem Solving Techniques That Smart People Use

Problems are, by their very nature, problematic. There are life problems, work problems, creative problems, and relationship problems. When we’re lucky, intuition takes over, and we solve a problem right away. When we’re not so lucky, we get stuck.

We might spend weeks or even months obsessing over how to write that term paper, get out of debt, or win back the love of our life. But instead of obsessing, let’s look at some effective problem solving techniques that people in the know rely on.

Ideation Vs Evaluation

It’s important to first understand and separate two stages of creativity before we look at effective problem solving techniques. Ideation is like brainstorming. It’s the stage of creativity where we’re looking for as many possible solutions as we can think of. There’s no judgment or evaluation of ideas at this stage. More is more.

After we’ve come up with as many solutions as possible, only then can we move onto the evaluation stage. This is when we analyze each possible solution and think about what works and what doesn’t. Here’s when all those good ideas from ideation rise to the top and the outlandish and impractical ones are abandoned.

7 Problem Solving Techniques That Work

Everyone has different ways of solving problems. Some are more creative, some are more organized. Some prefer to work on problems alone, others with a group. Check out the problem solving techniques below and find one that works for you.

1. Lean on Your Squad

The first of our seven problem solving techniques is to surround yourself with people you trust. Sometimes problems can be solved alone, but other times, you need some help.

There’s a concept called emergence that begins to explain why groups may be better for certain kinds of problem solving. Steven Johnson describes emergence as bottom up system organization.[1] My favorite example is an ant colony. Ants don’t have a president or boss telling them what to do. Instead, the complicated organization of the ant colony comes out of each individual ant just fulfilling their biological destiny.

Group creativity can also take on an emergent quality. When individuals really listen to, support, and add onto each other’s ideas, the sum of that group creativity can be much more than what any individual could have created on their own.

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Therefore, if you are struggling to solve a problem, you may want to find a group of people with whom you can collaborate, so you can start riffing with them about possible solutions.

2. Regulate Your Emotions

The next of the problem solving techniques is to be honest about how you’re feeling. We can’t solve problems as efficiently when we’re stressed out or upset, so starting with some emotional self-awareness goes a long way in helping us problem solve.

Dr. Daniel Siegel famously tells us to “Name it to tame it.” [2] He’s talking about naming our feelings, which offers us a better chance of regulating ourselves. I have to know that I’m stressed or upset if I want to calm down quickly in order to get back to a more optimal problem-solving state.

After you know how you’re feeling, you can take steps to regulate that feeling. If you’re feeling stressed out or upset, you can take a walk or try breathing exercises. Mindfulness exercises can also help you regain your sense of presence.

3. Listen

One thing that good problem solvers do is listen. They collect all the information they can and process it carefully before even attempting to solve the problem.

It’s tempting to jump right in and start problem solving before the scope of the problem is clear. But that’s a mistake.

Smart problem solvers listen carefully in order to get as many points of view and perspectives as possible. This allows them to gain a better understanding of the problem, which gives them a huge advantage in solving that problem.

4. Don’t Label Ideas as Bad…Yet

The fourth of the seven problem solving techniques is to gather as many possible solutions as you can. There are no bad ideas…yet.

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Think back to the two stages of creativity. When we are in the ideation stage, we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas, input, and possible solutions.

When we evaluate, judge, and criticize during the ideation stage, we inadvertently hamper creativity. One possible outcome of evaluating during ideation is creative suppression.[3]

When someone responds to someone else’s creative input with judgment or criticism, creative suppression can occur if the person who had the idea shuts down because of that judgment or criticism.

Imagine you’re at a meeting brainstorming ways to boost your sales numbers. You suggest hiring a new team member, but your colleague rolls their eyes and says that can’t happen since the numbers are already down.

Now, your colleague may be 100% correct. However, their comment might make you shut down for the rest of the meeting, which means your team won’t be getting any more possible solutions from you.

If your colleague had waited to evaluate the merits of your idea until after the brainstorming session, your team could have come up with more possible solutions to their current problem.

During the ideation stage, more is more. We want as many ideas as possible, so reserve the evaluation until there’s no more ideating left to do.

Another trick for better ideating is to “Yes And” each other’s ideas[4] In improvisation, there’s a principle known as “Yes And.” It means that one improviser should agree with the other’s idea for the scene and then add a new detail onto that reality.

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For example, if someone says, “I can’t hear over your loud music,” the other person needs to go along with that idea and then add onto it. They might say, “Sorry, I’ll turn it down, but I don’t think everyone else here at the club will appreciate it.”

Now the scene is getting interesting. We’re in a club, and the DJ is going to turn the music down. Playing “Yes And” with each other made the scene better by filling in details about who and where the improvisers are.

Yes Anding also works well during ideation sessions. Since we’ve already established that we shouldn’t be evaluating each other’s ideas yet, Yes Anding gives us something we can do. We can see the merits of each other’s ideas and try to build on them. This will make all of our possible solutions more fully realized than a simple laundry list.

5. Approach Problems With Playfulness

Approaching problem solving too seriously can exacerbate the problem. Sometimes we get too fixated on finding solutions and lose a sense of playfulness and fun.

It makes sense. When there are deadlines and people counting on us, we can try to force solutions, but stepping back and approaching problems from a more playful perspective can lead to more innovative solutions.

Think about how children approach problem solving. They don’t have the wealth of wisdom that decades on this planet give. Instead, they play around and try out imaginative and sometimes unpractical approaches.

That’s great for problem solving. Instead of limiting ourselves to how things have always been done, a sense of play and playfulness can lead us to truly innovative, out-of-the-box solutions.

6. Let the Unconscious Mind Roam

This may seem counterintuitive, but another technique to try when you become too fixated on a problem is to take a break to let the unconscious mind take over for a bit.

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Our conscious brain can only handle a limited amount of information at a time. Plus, it’s energetically exhausting to use our conscious brain for problem solving. Think about a time when you were studying for a test. It’s draining.[5]

But we’re in luck. There’s another part of our brain that isn’t draining and can integrate tons more information at a time—our unconscious.

This is why you come up with your best ideas in the shower or on your way to work or while you’re jogging. When you give your conscious brain a break, your unconscious has a chance to sift through mounds of information to arrive at solutions.

It’s how I write my articles. With my conscious brain, I think about which article I’m going to write. My problem is how to write it, so once I think carefully about the topic, I take a break. Then, the structure, sources, content, and sometimes phrasing happens in fits and starts while I’m not thinking about the article at all. It happens when I’m lying in bed, showering, and walking in the woods.

The key is to get in the habit of practicing this alternation between conscious and unconscious problem solving and to absolutely not force solutions. Sometimes, you just need to take a little break.

7. Be Candid

The last of the problem solving techniques happens during the evaluation stage. If we’re going to land on the best possible solution to our problems, we have to be able to openly and honestly evaluate ideas.

During the evaluating stage, criticism and feedback need to be delivered honestly and respectfully. If an idea doesn’t work, that needs to be made clear. The goal is that everyone should care about and challenge each other. This creates an environment where people take risks and collaborate because they trust that everyone has their best interest in mind and isn’t going to pull any punches.

Final Thoughts

In order to come up with the best solutions for problems, ideation and evaluation have to be two distinct steps in the creative process. Then, you should tap into some of the above techniques to get your ideas organized and your problems solved.

Hopefully, these seven problem solving techniques will help your problems be less…problematic.

More Tips for Problem Solving

Featured photo credit: Daria Nepriakhina via unsplash.com

Reference

[1] Steven Johnson: Emergence
[2] Dr. Dan Siegel: The whole-brain child
[3] American Psychological Association: Creative mortification
[4] Play Your Way Sane: And What?: Yes And
[5] Daniel Kahneman: Thinking, Fast and Slow

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