When I teach any of my writing courses, I ask who has had a class in analytical thinking. I’ve had maybe two or three hands go up in over 1,200 students. Why does a writer need analytical thinking skills? Because otherwise you believe the last thing you hear. Every speaker sounds true. We believe what we hear without question because, well, why not?
Analytical thinking is the hand-grenade in the hand of someone who demands meaning. You pull the pin and drop it into a pile of deep verbal fluff and all the easy answers go away.
And that, of course, is the problem with analytical thinking. No one wants messy. No one wants unanswered questions. No one wants to live in ambiguity. It’s easier to be spoon-fed fads, trends, poll numbers, and sound bites. See it on You Tube. Find someone you like and agree with their choice.
Analytical thinking involves asking simple questions with hard answers. It’s hard to think of good questions, but without good questions, all the answer sound similar.
The trouble is, if no one asks the hard questions, we’ll each have to do it individually, and each become experts, which is too much work for the average person.
There are a lot of talk- show hosts who spout opinions based on “it could have happened.” Because the reaction is loud and colorful it gets on the news. I’m embarrassed over my colleagues in the journalism profession, but no one asks the questions of these infotainment opinion-pushers.
Here are some questions to ask the next time you listen to the news or, sigh, those talk-show spouters:
1. Who pays your salary? Where does that money come from?
2. Who is paying for the commercials? As Deep Throat said, “Follow the money.” The person who is paying for this must have a reason for running it.
3. Where are the sources for your stories? “The internet” is not an answer. I can show you six sites that claim the earth is flat. The internet is like a bookstore. Lots of information, not all of it is true.
4. Are you expressing your own opinion or are you presenting facts? Do you have a financial interest in the outcome of this story. (Incidentally, that’s a question I’m asking every doctor I see now–Do you have a financial interest in any of the medications you are prescribing? That ought to make for some interesting answers.)
5. What does the radio station/sponsor want the result of your show to be?
6. Who stands to gain financially if the result of the show is as your sponsors/company gets what they want?
Each answer will bring more questions. And eventually your discover facts you didn’t know before.
Analytical thinking can be as interesting as unraveling a mystery, help you discover real answers and make good decisions for your life. Not a bad advantage for a few questions.