I must be right, right?
Am I right or am I wrong?
A Book in Time
Who’s right? Whose right is it to be right? Am I “righter” than you? Are you “righter” than me? Who decides? Here’s an even bigger question—is it right to get upset, angry, or in some way emotional with someone else if their “right” is different from your “right”? Why is it upsetting lately if there are differences in opinions? Can you think of any recent examples when your version of right differed from another person’s, and emotions flared? What was the issue? Did it end well? Was it worth potentially harming a relationship? What did it accomplish?
Let’s critically think about the need to be right and how we determine what is right. Observe and think about a situation that comes to mind. Determine the validity or reality of it based on your own research and analysis without influence or bias. Consider various possible answers or alternatives. The key is to ask questions wherever possible. Do this objectively without persuasion from personal feelings, opinions, or biases. Focus entirely on factual information. Perhaps even discover a new way of thinking about things. Where is the evidence of proof?
Critical thinking is a skill that can be practiced and mastered. It allows you to make individual, logical, informed decisions based on your collected evidence. It’s essential to gain clarity regarding the situation or events and discover the truth for yourself. For example, consider a “spicy” topic in the news, such as something political. Or it could be on a local level, or maybe even differences at work or home. Who is doing what? What seems to be the reason for this happening? What is the story being presented?
Let’s imagine, heaven forbid, that a story is presented on a media source, such as a news station, and on a different station, the same topic is presented but from an opposing angle, showing opposite results. Who is right? Now what do you do? Do you pick your favorite station and follow it blindly? This is conforming based on blind persuasion. Before making a decision, try listening to both stories from opposing viewpoints without prejudice and collecting more data. How can you verify facts from an unbiased source? Where can you find more evidence? Is the source reliable? What determines reliability? How about credibility?
If they are making a claim, are they revealing the source of the claim? If they aren’t, what are they trying to hide? Try to find out more about why this may be. Keep in mind that you are not there on location to know if the events presented actually happened. You are relying on the words of the person in front of the camera, more than likely paid for by the news station they are speaking from. Who is funding the news station? To whom does the information benefit? Does the source of the information appear to have an agenda? Can you tell what that is? Are they overlooking, ignoring, or leaving out information that doesn’t support the agenda? Are they using persuasive language to sway the audience’s perception of the facts?
Now comes the fun part. As mentioned, consider one of the stories and analyze it logically, using critical thinking. Ask all the mentioned questions and gather as much information as possible from credible sources. When completed, do the same thing for the other side of the story. This is the tricky part and, by far, the most challenging part. Ask questions and analyze the data similarly, giving one as much weight as the other. What do you notice? Extrapolate your information and discover potential outcomes. Remain neutral and unbiased as you compare and contrast all of this data. Did you find that you were able to openly analyze each side of the story without prejudice? If so, that is a skill to be proud of. Not everyone can remain unbiased while seeking the truth of opposing stories. If not, what do you think happened? Where did the breakdown occur? What was this based on? Was there bias involved? What can you do differently to remain unprejudiced until you thoroughly analyze both sides of the story?
Once both sides are analyzed, what have you discovered? Have you found more facts and evidence throughout your research, allowing you to infer based on the data? You may find that you still believe the story as you once did. You may realize additional information was discovered, which led you to favor a different side. Or perhaps after the analysis, you discover neither of the stories is valid, and an alternate vantage point is involved. What matters here is not what side you pick, but that you took the time, with an unbiased open mind, and asked questions for you to discover and interpret individually rather than conforming to persuasion.
Your ability to think as an individual is a valuable and vital asset. Consider what is being said, written, or presented. Rather than following the crowd, do the research and ask the questions. Know why you are choosing one side or the other. Let it be based on facts and data you collected and discovered rather than blindly believing the crowd or persuasive language. Critical thinking is an invaluable method of thinking that is being used less and less. Even this fact should lead to more questions, such as Why?
As we are all individuals with free will and our own opinions, we also have the right to them. Why do some people become emotional if others don’t think the same way? What might be the reasoning? Who is involved? What is the topic? Aren’t their rights the same as yours? What result might they be expecting by acting emotionally? Are they attempting to persuade through intimidation? What other questions can you consider to analyze when someone with an opposing view “flares up” regarding a discussion? What can you do to prevent this from escalating? What can you do to deflate the tension completely? How can you ensure you will not further instigate the flames? Perhaps listen to their version with interest and an open mind, considering their reasoning and giving them your full attention. Offer a chance to share some of your own information if you think they can be open to listening. This may not always be an option. There is an art to being able to disconfirm an opposing view without conforming to the influence or persuasion of another. This isn’t easy! But is attainable.
Relationships are invaluable. Is winning the argument more important than sustaining a friendship or relationship? Sometimes agreeing to disagree yet being open to listening to opposing viewpoints is the best answer. Perhaps you kindly ask to move on and discuss something else. Respect the person and make your best effort to preserve the relationship. On a scale from one to ten, with one being not at all and ten being every time, where do you fit being able to do this? Can you leave a disagreement with a smile or a fist bump?
- Challenge yourself to deflate every disagreement or difference of opinion and part with a smile.
- Pick a sensitive topic with opposing viewpoints. Analyze each side to a conclusion. Then compare and contrast each side to a logical decision. What do you notice?
- Name someone who has evident critical thinking skills.
- Think of a time when being right was more important than being friends. How did this make you feel? What would you do differently?
- What have you already been doing “right” regarding critical thinking?
- Who could benefit from this information?