Getting over barriers in critical thinking

In modern life, information overload is a reality. We get bombarded with messages to believe various ideas, purchase things, support causes, and lead our lifestyle in a particular way. But should we accept and believe everything we read and hear? How can we separate the truth from the myths?

The answer lies in critical thinking skills. The ability to clearly reason through problems and to present arguments in a logical, compelling way has become a key skill for survival in today’s world. Learning this process can be highly beneficial.

“But, as with any process, there are many traps threatening to disrupt the critical thinking process,” says Rachel Johnson, owner of Palomino Training Solutions. “It helps to know what these potential traps are so that they can be identified and avoided if they arise.”

One of these traps is called building your house on sand. To put it simply, it means basing your argument on a point that is false. Your co-worker assumes, ‘Joe quit last week because of the changes in how we schedule leave. I guess we need to overhaul the system.’

“Instead of making swooping assumptions,” says Johnson, “we need to use critical thinking techniques to dig a little deeper and unravel the real problem and issues behind it. Did Joe really quit because of the policy changes? Are others also unhappy? Does Joe have any other issues? What is the core problem?” More investigation needs to be done before we decide to act on the problem, because there might not even be a problem.

Another trap is known as the red herring. This is when volatile information that has no relevance to the argument is introduced to the process. Your IT colleague is making an argument for a new software programme. Someone brings up a point that he cannot answer, so he makes an irrelevant point about a recent controversial change to the bonus structure. This causes a firestorm throughout the room and the counter-argument is forgotten.

Johnson advises that the best way to deal with a red herring is to politely and calmly point out the irrelevance of the fact, then move on with the main argument.

If you would like to learn more on this subject, join us at our upcoming 2019 Critical Thinking courses. They will be held on 17 April, 15 May and 14 June in Cape Town, Pretoria and Durban and the cost is R2,295 ex vat per delegate. This one-day interactive course includes modules on: the critical thinking process; creating explanations; a critical thinker’s skillset; and much more.

This course is also available as an onsite option at your work premises (contact us for the very competitive prices) and also as an online (e-learning) option.

“Our aim is for delegates to leave our workshops feeling inspired and motivated, with a wealth of knowledge and hands-on tools that they are able to implement immediately,” says Johnson.

Palomino Training Solutions, which was established in 2006, offers over 150 training courses ranging from telephone etiquette, public speaking and business writing to conflict resolution, recruitment & selection and supervisory skills.

For more information, contact Rachel Johnson on 082-878-1164, email [email protected] or visit