Communication is the framework, foundation, and skeletal structure of critical thinking. People who continually strive to improve their critical thinking skills are better communicators.
Critical thinkers have communication skills that:
- help them to articulate and visualize problems and solutions from different angles
- enable them to present their perspectives with confidence
- assimilate and organize their thoughts through logical analysis
In today’s job market, communication ability based on critical thinking are valued traits in new employees—and according to one 2016 survey by the Harvard Business Review—those skills are sadly lacking in many of today’s job applicants.
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Examples of communication in critical thinking
There are a variety of ways to communicate effectively using critical thinking. Indeed.com highlights four types of communication in critical thinking with suggestions on deploying those communication tools:
1. Verbal—Critical thinkers use a strong and confident speaking voice as well as active listening—a conscious effort to not only hear the words, but the complete message the other person is communicating. They avoid “filler” words and fluff, as well as excessive industry jargon when plain speaking will do.
2. Visual—Good visual communications are governed by the following rules of thumb:
- get permission in advance
- only use visual presentations when they add value to the process
- consider the audience
- present clear and easy-to-understand visual presentations focusing on the core message
3. Written—Good writers strive for simplicity and prefer active voice. They never rely on tone and always thoroughly review what they have written. They keep a file of their own and the writing of others that they find effective and appealing to their writing style.
4. Nonverbal—At the core of critical thinking is controlling emotions and self-monitoring. A critical thinker communicates intentionally and uses appropriate facial expressions and body knowledge to reinforce objectivity.
Nonverbal communication is especially effective when it is backed up with solid research and evidence, with appropriate nonverbal messaging that projects a relaxed, confident persona.
How language or communication influences your critical thinking
So, all the above communication methods contribute a unique perspective to what is the role of communication in critical thinking. Also, effective communication influences your critical thinking in several positive ways:
Critical thinking communication skills help you to stay on point
Staying on topic and avoiding deviating is a byproduct of critical thinking. In group settings, it can be difficult to fix a problem when others have their own views and possible hidden agendas. A skilled communicator can stay on track and focus on core issues, while establishing trust and a reputation for staying on point.
Critical thinkers have a curious mind and are in control of their emotions.
An essential feature of critical thinking is self-knowledge and an ability to shed biases and to control emotions. Employers seek this quality and value an employee who can regulate emotions as well as ask questions for useful solutions to difficult problems.
A caveat about emotions
David R. Novak sees communication as a difficult process and argues that “critical thinking isn’t a purely rational process.” He is wary of anyone “trumpeting their ‘rationality,’ arguing that “their humanity has likely been corrupted.” In fact, dealing with emotions is “part of the process of communicating and part of critical thinking.”
Says Novak, “Emotions are real and powerful.” They can sometimes be central when hashing out difficult problems with people. His advice when dealing with emotion-driven problems is to “embrace and express authentic emotions appropriately.”
Finally, the thing about emotive expressions is that they “are evidence of systemic problems that lie beneath.” Novak’s advice: “Strive to be flexible to and open to the authentic expressions of others. You can’t tell people in pain to suppress emotions.”
What is the role of communication in critical thinking when evaluating applicants for management positions?
It is a given that when managers make a decision, they must share it both up and down the chain of their hierarchies. Managers who are critical thinkers demonstrate sophisticated communication skills. They provide supporting arguments and the necessary evidence to substantiate their decision. When their team is on the same page, they play by the same rules.
Critical thinking improves communication
When a manager thinks clearly and is not unduly swayed by bias, what follows is a more productive communication process. That process consists of better engagement where everyone can contribute to the mission.
Better communication through critical thinking is a stepping stone to emotional intelligence
Analytical rationality and emotional intelligence can coexist. In fact, a manager with well-developed critical thinking and communication skills can avoid emotion-driven decisions. However, their respect for the emotional and ethical implications of any problem or challenge enables them to come up with more creative solutions.
Critical thinkers communicate with challenging open-ended questions
Managers who are critical thinkers actively encourage creativity. They are open to new ideas and their goal is, by effective communication, to amass a larger trove of information when facing decisions.
This communication habit, in turn, promotes even more creative solutions through asking challenging and open-ended questions from those who have a stake in the solution. When those open-ended questions are loaded with elements of critical thinking—e.g., “How do you know that? What evidence do you have?”—the manager is teaching everyone the value of critical thinking and communication.
Critical thinking plus good communication equal savings in time and money.
Managers who encourage critical thinking in the workplace minimize the requirement for supervision. They can catch problems early, and encourage initiative and independence. Managers can then focus on the core responsibilities of their duties and save their organization time and resources.
Communication is the foundation of critical thinking. Critical thinkers have communication skills that get to the heart of problems. Examples of communication resources in critical thinking include verbal, visual, written, and nonverbal skills. Each has its own value and applications in critical thinking.
Language or communication influences critical thinking effectiveness by helping you to stay on point and in control of your emotions. Emotions, however, can come into play in effectively communicating with those whose emotions have taken over.
Managers who are critical thinkers can develop communication styles that encourage their team to communicate better and play by the same rules. A manager who thinks and communicates clearly can promote better communications and a team that contributes to the mission.
When the goal is a creative solution to a difficult challenge, a manager who asks the right open-ended questions can tap into everyone’s innate desire to solve problems.
Finally, managers who encourage effective communication and critical thinking minimize the need for supervising their employees, while encouraging initiative and independence. That translates into savings in time, effort, and money.
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