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A. Develop the Habit of Thinking Again
1. Think like a scientist. When you start forming an opinion, resist the temptation to preach, prosecute, or politick. Treat your emerging view as a hunch or a hypothesis and test it with data.
2. Define your identity in terms of values, not opinions. It’s easier to avoid getting stuck to your past beliefs if you don’t become attached to them as part of your present self-concept. See yourself as someone who values curiosity, learning, mental flexibility, and searching for knowledge. As you form opinions, keep a list of factors that would change your mind.
3. Seek out information that goes against your views. You can fight confirmation bias, burst filter bubbles, and escape echo chambers by actively engaging with ideas that challenge your assumptions. An easy place to start is to follow people who make you think—even if you usually disagree with what they think.
B. Calibrate Your Confidence
4. Beware of getting stranded at the summit of Mount Stupid. Don’t confuse confidence with competence. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a good reminder that the better you think you are, the greater the risk that you’re overestimating yourself—and the greater the odds that you’ll stop improving. To prevent overconfidence in your knowledge, reflect on how well you can explain a given subject
5. Harness the benefits of doubt. When you find yourself doubting your ability, reframe the situation as an opportunity for growth. You can have confidence in your capacity to learn while questioning your current solution to a problem. Knowing what you don’t know is often the first step toward developing expertise.
8. Build a challenge network, not just a support network. It’s helpful to have cheerleaders encouraging you, but you also need critics to challenge you. Who are your most thoughtful critics? Once you’ve identified them, invite them to question your thinking. To make sure they know you’re open to dissenting views, tell them why you respect their pushback—and where they usually add the most value.
9. Don’t shy away from constructive conflict. Disagreements don’t have to be disagreeable. Although relationship conflict is usually counterproductive, task conflict can help you think again. Try framing disagreement as a debate: people are more likely to approach it intellectually and less likely to take it personally.
A. Ask Better Questions
10. Practice the art of persuasive listening. When we’re trying to open other people’s minds, we can frequently accomplish more by listening than by talking. How can you show an interest in helping people crystallize their own views and uncover their own reasons for change? A good way to start is to increase your question-to-statement ratio.
11. Question how rather than why. When people describe why they hold extreme views, they often intensify their commitment and double down. When they try to explain how they would make their views a reality, they often realize the limits of their understanding and start to temper some of their opinions.
13. Ask how people originally formed an opinion. Many of our opinions, like our stereotypes, are arbitrary; we’ve developed them without rigorous data or deep reflection. To help people reevaluate, prompt them to consider how they’d believe different things if they’d been born at a different time or in a different place.
17. Have a conversation about the conversation. If emotions are running hot, try redirecting the discussion to the process. Like the expert negotiators who comment on their feelings and test their understanding of the other side’s feelings, you can sometimes make progress by expressing your disappointment or frustration and asking people if they share it.
A. Have More Nuanced Conversations
18. Complexify contentious topics. There are more than two sides to every story. Instead of treating polarizing issues like two sides of a coin, look at them through the many lenses of a prism. Seeing the shades of gray can make us more open.
B. Teach Kids to Think Again
21. Have a weekly myth-busting discussion at dinner. It’s easier to debunk false beliefs at an early age, and it’s a great way to teach kids to become comfortable with rethinking. Pick a different topic each week—one day it might be dinosaurs, the next it could be outer space—and rotate responsibility around the family for bringing a myth for discussion.
22. Invite kids to do multiple drafts and seek feedback from others. Creating different versions of a drawing or a story can encourage kids to learn the value of revising their ideas. Getting input from others can also help them to continue evolving their standards. They might learn to embrace confusion—and to stop expecting perfection on the first try.
23. Stop asking kids what they want to be when they grow up. They don’t have to define themselves in terms of a career. A single identity can close the door to alternatives. Instead of trying to narrow their options, help them broaden their possibilities. They don’t have to be one thing—they can do many things.
28. Rethink your actions, not just your surroundings. Chasing happiness can chase it away. Trading one set of circumstances for another isn’t always enough. Joy can wax and wane, but meaning is more likely to last. Building a sense of purpose often starts with taking actions to enhance your learning or your contribution to others.
29. Schedule a life checkup. It’s easy to get caught in escalation of commitment to an unfulfilling path. Just as you schedule health checkups with your doctor, it’s worth having a life checkup on your calendar once or twice a year. It’s a way to assess how much you’re learning, how your beliefs and goals are evolving, and whether your next steps warrant some rethinking.
30. Make time to think again. When I looked at my calendar, I noticed that it was mostly full of doing. I set a goal of spending an hour a day thinking and learning. Now I’ve decided to go further: I’m scheduling a weekly time for rethinking and unlearning. I reach out to my challenge network and ask what ideas and opinions they think I should be reconsidering. Recently, my wife, Allison, told me that I need to rethink the way I pronounce the word mayonnaise.
Book summaries mostly ...
This special book examines the critical art of rethinking: learning to question your opinions and open other people’s minds, which can position you for excellence at work and wisdom in life. Awesome read!
Curious about different takes? Check out our Think Again Summary book page to explore multiple unique summaries written by Deepstash users.
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