How to think clearly | Psyche Guides - Deepstash

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Clarifying your thinking

Clarifying your thinking

When we are struggling with a complex topic, it can be powerful to talk someone else through the idea, step by step.

This principle of explaining complex ideas as simply as possible is called 'Explain Like I'm Five.' Explaining concepts helps to clarify our thinking. It is a process that ultimately helps us to be understood.

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Reflect on why you believe something is important

Take a moment of self-reflection. We have many vague and confusing thoughts and feelings that we don't spend the time to sort out, so they mostly stay that way.

Observing yourself in a neutral way is the first step to clearer thinking. Make yourself comfortable, then try to notice the flow of your thoughts and feelings in a nonjudgmental way.

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Consider what you are claiming

What are you claiming, and why? For example, thinking if it is better to become a vegetarian or a vegan, and why or why not it is better.

Write out a numbered list of statements followed by a conclusion. The statements should present a line of reasoning that justifies your final conclusion. Then, ask two questions about each statement.

  • Why should someone accept this particular claim?
  • What follows from this claim once it's been accepted?

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Investigate the divide between beliefs and actions

Simple conclusions can become more complex and revealing. For example, if you believe that it is better to be a vegetarian but don't eat vegetarian, it suggests that you don't believe your own reasons or that you don't find your reasons compelling.

Clarifying your thinking will strip away oversimplifications and replace them with an honest acknowledgement. It is by repeatedly questioning the why and what of our claims that we can hope to tear away the confusion and self-justification of our thoughts.

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The basis of justifying claims

Consider on what basis you can justify any claims. You may rely on external evidence, personal preferences or experiences. All of them will at some stage point to our assumptions we accept as fundamental.

Our assumptions are unexamined ideas. They are vital as they underpin our thinking. However, sometimes we don't share the same assumptions with others and may need to spell them out.

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Be clear about assumptions

When it comes to clarifying your thinking, differentiate between what follows from your assumptions and the status of those assumptions:

  • Any line of thinking begins with certain assumptions you take as a given.
  • A process of analysis can show where your assumptions lead.
  • Different ways of reasoning based on differing assumptions may lead to different outcomes.
  • It is useful to spell out your own and other people's key assumptions.
  • If you're open-minded, you can find common assumptions and challenge faulty ones.

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Embrace dialogue

The most valuable thing about clearly presenting the thinking behind a point of view is the willingness to participate in a reasoned exchange of ideas.

In principle, it suggests you're prepared to:

  • Justify your position.
  • Listen to, and learn from other perspectives.
  • Accept that you might have to reconsider your opinion or change your mind.

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