“When your mind is full of assumptions, conclusions, and beliefs, it has no penetration, it just repeats past impressions.” — Sadhguru
There is a simple way to practice critical thinking and improve your credibility.
You can ask evidence questions.
You can use the approach to question any information and to challenge your own beliefs, assumptions, ideas, or positions.
Questioning your own beliefs is crucial to building and maintaining your credibility.
In an article by Vervago called Can You Pass the Credibility Test? the authors share simple and effective ways to improve your critical thinking and improve your credibility.
What is Critical Thinking?
Before we improve critical thinking, let’s start with a simple definition of critical thinking.
Here is how the dictionary defines what is critical thinking:
“The objective analysis and evaluation of an issue in order to form a judgment.”
I actually like how Monash University defines critical thinking:
“Critical thinking is a kind of thinking in which you question, analyse, interpret, evaluate and make a judgement about what you read, hear, say, or write.
The term critical comes from the Greek word kritikos meaning ‘able to judge or discern’.
Good critical thinking is about making reliable judgements based on reliable information.”
Improve Your Critical Thinking Before You Present Your Idea
To practice, you can use evidence questions to balance your thinking and to question your own beliefs.
Do this before you present our thinking to critical audiences like managers, executives, or outside stakeholders.
According to Vervago:
“Asking yourself to truly examine the pros and the cons of an idea in a balanced manner helps you understand it more deeply.
And presenting the upsides and the downsides of an issue builds your credibility.”
3 Key Questions to Improve Your Critical Thinking and Balance an Idea
Use evidence questions to check your thinking and balance an idea.
Vervago shares example questions to ask yourself:
“Even as your certainty about a belief grows, you have to ask yourself questions such as:
- How do I really know that’s true?
- Have I examined the evidence thoroughly enough?
- Is there another equally likely explanation that I’m overlooking because I want this to be true?”
If You Want to Be Credible, Balance the Pros and Cons of an Idea
This is a test of your ability to fully weight a choice against the pros and cons, even of competing ideas or ideas that conflict with your own.
“One of the most important—and overlooked—approaches to evidence questions involves balancing multiple frames on an issue.
Sometimes this is referred to as balancing the pros and cons of an idea.
Sometimes we call it weighing upsides and downsides of an issue or decision.”
The Risk We All Have is Falling in Love with Our Ideas or Beliefs
If we have made up our minds about an idea or an issue, it’s easy to stop asking about evidence.
And that’s the risk to our thinking, our choices, and our credibility.
“It’s easy to fall in love with our pet proposals or our key ideas at work and forget to ask ourselves the tough, precise questions that expose weaknesses in evidence supporting our solutions.”
Ask These 6 Evidence Questions to Improve Your Critical Thinking
You can balance your thinking by simply asking evidence questions and this will improve your critical thinking.
Using evidence to explore your thinking is a healthy way to balance your perspective and check your assumptions, ideas, and beliefs.
The key is to stay open during the process to learn what the evidence and data reveals to you.
Vervago shares a simple set of evidence questions to practice balancing your thinking:
“Choose a position or an idea that you believe in passionately.
Start finding balance in your thinking by asking yourself, and others, questions like these:
- What are the strongest reasons to support this position?
- What are the strongest reasons to withdraw support for this position?
- What would my smartest critics say about this point of view or this idea? Why would they be right?
- What would my strongest supporters say about this view? Why would they be right?
- Why do I believe this is true?
- Why might it be false?”
How To Pass the Credibility Test
When you can respond to the evidence questions with an articulate answer, you can pass the credibility test.
“Once you can give an articulate response to these questions, you are ready to pass the credibility test.
When you can give a strong, well-articulated answer to each of these questions, you’re ready to present your thinking to an audience who is serious about evaluating your credibility as well as the merit of your proposal.”
Example of Hurting Your Credibility by Not Balancing with Evidence
If you don’t check your evidence, you can jump to the wrong conclusions and hurt your credibility.
It’s one thing to follow a hunch or to make some assumptions, but if you don’t check your assumptions, your “false facts” can really hurt your credibility.
Would you be on you if you consistently came up with ideas or decisions that were not rooted in reality?
By working through your thinking, you can improve your confidence, your clarity, and your credibility, first and foremost for yourself, then also for other people that depend on your for making good decisions.
Vervago shares a very insightful and embarrassing story of what can happen when people don’t check their evidence:
“Lest you diminish the importance of questioning your beliefs in your work, consider an embarrassing scenario at New York magazine.
By not asking questions to analyze the evidence about a story, journalist Jessica Pressler ended up hurting her own credibility and the credibility of her company.
Here’s what happened:
Meeting over caviar and apple juice with a 17-year-old ‘genius’ financial trader named Mohammed Islam, Pressler gathered ideas for a story entitled ‘Reasons to Love New York.’
She described how this whiz kid traded oil and gold futures in order to earn a rumored $72 million in fast cash.
But just one day after its publication, Islam was forced to admit that he had fabricated the whole thing, including his net worth.
In fact, he had never made any money on the stock market. How did a professional journalist–whose job is to ask questions–miss the mark so badly?
No one at New York magazine looked too hard at the evidence because they wanted to believe the story. In other words, they failed to self-question their beliefs.
Author Pressler said:
‘I came to love the fact that these kids are running around the city with these big dreams. It can only happen in New York, these kids eating caviar.’
Compare this with the questions CNBC reporters asked Islam during a production meeting in advance of his appearance on “Halftime Report”:
- Where did the initial money come from?
- You’re under 18, so how could you open a brokerage account?
- What kinds of trades were you making?
Islam ‘could not answer’ any of these precise evidence questions.
He quickly withdrew from the show. More precise evidence questions used to examine her own desires for her story to be true could have saved Pressler a great deal of pain.
We are all susceptible to the same risk. It’s easy to fall in love with our pet proposals or our key ideas at work and forget to ask ourselves the tough, precise questions that expose weaknesses in evidence supporting our solutions.”
Call to Action
- Check your evidence supporting your belief or idea (How do I really know that’s true? Have I examined the evidence thoroughly enough? Is there another equally likely explanation that I’m overlooking because I want this to be true?”)
- Explore the pros and cons of an idea and alternatives. Learn to find your biases so you can improve your thinking.
- Balance your thinking with evidence questions.
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