Dr. Jim White launched into the fourth installation of his critical thinking webinar series with a recap of last week’s lesson, the four major steps to critical thinking:
1. Asking the right questions
2. Organizing data
3. Evaluating information
4. Forming a conclusion
Critical Thinking, Part IV.
We as a nation need to be thinking critically, Dr. White said, since on every news channel there is something big occurring, in every major city here and internationally, and we must be able to think critically about what we are seeing.
Then, he reiterated his objectives for this series:
1. Understand components of critical thinking
2. Utilize non-linear thinking
3. Use logical thinking
4. Recognize what it means to be a critical thinker
5. Evaluate the information used in critical thinking skills
6. Identify the benefits of critical thinking
7. Revise perspective when necessary (This bullet alone is worth the price of admission for tonight’s webinar, he quipped.)
8. Comprehend problem-solving abilities
“Do people have innate abilities that make them better critical thinkers?”
Dr. White asked: What are some of the characteristics of critical thinkers? Do people have innate abilities that make them better critical thinkers? There are eight characteristics of critical thinkers and this week Dr. White drilled down into the first four.
We must listen as a nation, listen to our spouses, to our friends, neighbors… but we also have to hear. (Without turning the webinar into a political tirade, Dr. White felt compelled to mention that the tragic events that unfolded a few days ago happen far too often and break his heart.)
The best communicators are active listeners. What does it mean to practice active listening? It means the listener is completely engaged, in a dialogue with a spouse, employees, grandkids, with the community. It means the listener is engaged and is judging what is being said, not busy formulating a rebuttal or thinking about something unrelated. It means giving someone undivided attention. Active listening is an important skill that can be learned, not just for the workplace but in everyday life.
Active listening increases productivity and prevents errors, which not only cost one’s credibility and get in the way of career goals, but also cost employers money, Dr. White said. Every service and organization, every occupation, and in fact every facet of life requires active listening. It is the key to happy relationships. Dr. White advised political leaders to listen to the concerns of the protestors in the streets.
Remember being curious as a child? We should be curious as adults too.
Dr. White recalled being an eight-year-old child in rural South Carolina, living on his grandparents’ farm, and seeing an airplane fly by for the first time. His grandfather said, “J.L.,
always be curious. And always know that you can do what you are interested in.” And Dr. White went on to become a pilot.
Some scholars believe that Socrates’ ultimate goal was not to advocate his own methods but to encourage self improvement and spark curiosity. That’s our job as leaders, parents, and teachers, Dr. White said – to engage students, to spark curiosity, inspire their vision and to gain their trust. He feels his job is Teacher/ Mentor/ Coach.
Essentially, curiosity involves questions. Einstein asked questions about how matter and energy function. Throughout history we see how open minds and questions contributed to success.
As Dr. White was preparing for tonight’s seminar, he thought about Florence Nightingale, the mother of modern nursing… as well as the heroes and frontliners working against COVID-19. Nightingale was a skilled statistician whose open mind and curiosity led her to report on the sanitary conditions of the battlefield. Her report led the British Royal Commission to adopt changes that saved countless lives.
Dr. White again related the theoretical to the real world by saying, the protestors – who absolutely have the right to protest if done peacefully and without harming others’ property – must employ self-discipline.
Our law enforcement, frontline workers, peaceful protestors (and the people out there protesting for another reason, which we recognize is hatred) – all need self-discipline. Reasoning and rationale are associated with self-discipline. Critical thinking is a self-disciplined and self-guided action. Critical thinking requires the individual to use reasoning skills and evaluate and reflect on what is happening.
People who are critical thinkers are often very empathetic, are aware of their surroundings, and show a commitment to self-development and strive to make their environment a better place.
The word “critical” relates to “criteria,” a test or standard of the psychological, moral, scientific, or practical. So critical thinking is related to being disciplined. Discipline usually denotes practicality, Dr. White added.
Be humble. Dr. White’s message to our leaders is, “It’s not about you!”
Humility is defined as the quality of being modest, and is the estimate of one’s own importance. It is the opposite of arrogance. It relates to having an open mind, to being
receptive to new information or opinions. Dr. White cannot stress enough that all of our political and business leaders, and influencers, must be humble and not arrogant.
Being humble allows us to accept and see information in a way that is not filtered through our ego. The danger of humility is remaining in a rut and not doing enough to grow and be curious. Conversely, the concept of humility in business and politics has been nearly nonexistent. How can a business succeed in a competitive environment if the leaders take a humble or modest approach?
Research has coined a term to explain the place of humility in business or politics, Dr. White explained: “Neo-humility.” That is, humility without weakness – listening to the other side but not being weak. Humility with confidence. It is confidence that allows us to stand straight, walk in and own a room. No one would follow us if we were meek and shriveled. But it is humility that prevents confidence from spilling over into arrogance.
Of the traits that commonly lead to failure, arrogance is our primary downfall. Blind over-assurance can lead to taking unnecessary risks. Even if we have all the money in the world, arrogance will catch up with us.
Arrogance, Dr. White predicts, will be the downfall of many political leaders. It is just a matter of time.
Next week, Dr. White’s webinar series continues with his discussion of critical thinking, covering four additional qualities needed by critical thinkers: Seeing the Big Picture, Objectivity, Using Emotions, and Being Self-Aware. Dr. White looks forward to giving away a copy of Opportunity Investing during the webinar as well!
His fifth book, The Next Big Thing in Politics, will be released around Labor Day, just in time for our critical election season.
Dr. White is hosting his regular Webinar Series. His next webinar goes live on June 9 at 6:30 PM EST. The topic of the webinar is “Critical Thinkers, Part V.” Dr. White’s objective is to teach you the skills to evaluate, identify, and distinguish between relevant and irrelevant information. It will lead you to be more productive in your career, and provide a great skill in your everyday life during and post COVID-19.