Winning Words

Critical thinking — or just thinking critically


Just the other day someone has asked me if I had any materials, courses, or ideas that would support a classroom lesson on critical thinking. With more than a handful of books sitting on my shelf and more than a few bookmarked pages on my browser, I could have easily answered: “Yes I do.”

However, simply responding with a “yes” would have meant that I assumed that I was fully aware of the real question being asked. So before answering, I asked a few more questions of my own. I mean critical thinking, after all, is a very hot topic in the professional training business these days, so it could have been very easy to dive right into how people could and should use some form of critical thinking to help draw their own conclusions based on challenging or accepting the statements or theories of others at face value. So for me, I wanted to know more about the real reason for the question.

One of the questions I asked was this: “Critical thinking could mean different things to different people, can you be more specific about what you are looking for when you think about critical thinking?” Their response was this, “Our team here in the office has just become so negative and critical of everything and even each other. I was hoping we could find some material or a course that would us stop thinking so critically of one another and of everything going on here at the company.” What they wanted was positive, motivational and inspirational change.

Could you imagine if I had just jumped in with standard theoretical information such as forming an opinion based on objective information, supporting data and facts, and a complete evaluation as they try and come to a reasonable conclusion? I would have completely missed the intended question.

Now I will admit that most times when I am asked about programs or courses or to do a talk about critical thinking it is to help individuals and companies get better at decision making, strategic and tactical planning, and the execution against those plans based on the use of critical thinking.
But there are plenty of other companies who find themselves in the same situation mentioned above. They may not necessarily contact me about “critical thinking,” instead they may ask about creating a positive and motivational working environment.

There is so much power and benefit that can gained from teaching people the process of critical thinking. Especially in an age where we have so much access to information, input, and opinions of others. There is even more power in getting people to stop thinking, behaving, and speaking critically. Constructive criticism is a powerful tool when administered properly and discussed with proper and inspired intent. Criticism for the sake of tearing someone or something down is nothing more than a demolition mission typically driven by malintent or personal agenda.

So the next time you are asked a question, even though you know or assume that you know the answer, use a little critical thinking of your own and ask some good questions to better define the real question being asked so that you are in a much better position to answer the right question or provide guidance in some way.

And if you are in the habit of acting, thinking, or speaking critically of others, perhaps try to remember a famous quote by Zig Ziglar: “A positive mental attitude will not allow you to do anything. But a positive mental attitude will allow you to do everything 100 percent better than a negative attitude will.”

How about you? Have you learned how powerful following a process of critical thinking can be? Are you working to avoid thinking critically of others? As always, I would love to hear your story at, and when we can combine solid critical thinking with the proper positive intent, it really will be a better than good week.

Michael Norton is a resident of Castle Rock, the president of the Zig Ziglar Corporate Training Solutions Team, a strategic consultant and a business and personal coach.

Michael Norton


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