The HeadScratcher Post Archive
September 2010
Critical Thinking and Emotions
       September 2010 The Headscratcher Post Headscratchers LLC    Edition 65

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Critical Thinking and Emotions

We are often asked if our critical thinking workshops can help people make "non-emotional" decisions.    The answer is "yes, but in a much different way than you might expect".

In the movie "A League of their Own", Tom Hanks is the manager of a women's baseball team during world war II.   In one scene, one of the players starts to cry, and Tom Hanks declares, "There's no crying in baseball".    Similarly, many of our clients initially assume "There's no emotion in critical thinking". However this is an invalid assumption.

We make thousands of decisions each day, such as what to wear,  what to eat, which way to drive to work, how to present our ideas, what to say in meetings, what to delegate, when to deliver a report,  and so on ... Thousands a day.   In every single case, we use some component of our core values, i.e. emotion.   Common core values that exist in many people include those of "being fair", "doing the right thing", "trust", "honesty", "desire to help our children", "being responsible", "caring for others",  religious beliefs, and more.   Some less common core values include "every man for himself", "views on entitlement", "survival of the fittest", "the squeaky wheel gets the oil", and more.     You can't erase your values, i.e. your belief system, and like the facts and experiences you have, you'll use your core values when you make decisions ... every one of them.

Where critical thinking comes in is when you become aware of the core values you are using when making a decision.  As a result, you can see how these values  influence you.  You can understand  why people may disagree, even when they share the same facts and experiences.  Once you recognize that  values are at play, you can adjust how you apply them (you can't ignore them, but you can use them in different ways).

Is this non-emotional?   It is when you realize you're using your values to guide your decisions and you understand how their impact.   When thinking critically, "non -emotional decisions" do occur, however the "non-emotion" isn't ignoring your values, but being aware of how they are influencing you.

The Takeaway: Making non-emotional decisions are possible by being aware and understanding the values you have that produce emotions and how they affect your decisions.    An understanding of the core values you and others have can go a long way to explain and reconcile different views and decisions.

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