Critical Thinking in Your Personal Interactions

Did you know that the Trivium method of critical thinking, of utilizing the process of asking “what”, “why”, and “how”, can be repeated in any interpersonal conversation?  Critical thinking isn’t just beneficial in an argument, but can be a way of thinking in each moment and interaction — as it can be beneficial to gain as much data as possible, and then process the data, prior to making decisions of any size.  

For example, suppose somebody makes a request from you, but you do not have enough information to make a decision on their request, but because of your own presuppositions about the nature of the request, you assume that they have a particular context in mind.  In this instance, you could immediately make a decision based on what you think they want, but risk being wrong, or you could ask them a series of questions prior to acting.  Where the former acts immediately, but has a greater probability of being wrong, making a mistake, or even offending the one making the request, the latter postpones action until all of the data has been gathered and processed.

When utilizing the Trivium pattern in this interaction, it is necessary to first ask as many “what” (when, where, and who) questions that may seem prudent, to clarify any possible lack of information.  Such as “what do you mean by…?”, “where can I learn more…?”, “who is going to be there…?”, “where will you be…?”, “where did you want me…?”, “when were you thinking…?”, what are you feeling right now about this…?, “what do you hope to gain from this request…?, and “what is the topic of this request, if any…?”.  After filling in any possible gaps in information, you would then seek to understand “why “the request was made, and depending on the amount of data gathered, may require asking a few more additional “what” questions as well.  Here are some possible “why” questions to bring in more understanding about the nature of the request, such as “why are you making the request…?”, “why are you asking me…?”, and “why do you feel this will benefit you and me…?”.

After asking as many “what” and “why” questions as necessary, it is then possible to formulate “how” you choose to respond to the request — if you will fulfill the request, or any other possible courses of action that you might take.  Any response that doesn’t first include asking enough questions, is probably more of a reaction that bypasses the critical thinking process than an actual response. Integrating the Trivium methodology of critical thinking into your social, business, and personal interactions will allow you to make more informed decisions based on all of the information available; choices that are free from emotional charges, and are reasonable and mutually beneficial.

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