Think Critically – Improve Your Emotional Intelligence

Malcom X

I  think Malcolm X  is one of my heroes mainly because, as the quote demonstrates, he didn’t get locked into Either/or positions. He was a critical thinker, what some call a “Yes/and” thinker.


Either/or thinking closes off richness by limiting the options to two possibilities.   Not useful.  I agree with those who think the more views of the territory, the more accurate the map.

Either/or statements make better sound bytes, are easier to frame and put people who define themselves as one or the other at odds. Something the media enjoys doing.

Our either\or views often reflect our earliest beliefs.  Children under the age of six form a core set of beliefs about the world.  The infant explores what is and is a learning machine.  S/he will come at about the age of six or seven to solidify that learning into a more global belief: “What is Ought to Be.”  Contradictory ideas get rejected because they threaten.

A child’s “What is” is formed by  three things:

  1. Biology, meaning both  genetic predispositions including temperament,  and  those biological  events  such as illness, trauma, brain injuries that change a  person.
  2. The voices of authority heeded by the child; the more those surrounding a child teach and preach the same thing, the more powerful the teaching–why fundamental religious groups want to control education and often separate their young from broader societal influences if at various with their doctrines.
  3. The child’s personal experiences.  Something as simple as being the first-born child leads to different beliefs about what is and  about right and wrong,  particularly as taught by voices of authority.

Believing “What is ought to be” sometimes undergoes revision during adolescence.  This is when many become capable of thinking broadly and comparing contradictions among previous beliefs.

My point, we are programmed to think either/or, but most of us can learn to think more broadly.  The more we do so, the more we walk paths of peace.


Become aware of either/or thinking.  Then try to think of at least one yes/and position.

An example: The fiscal cliff crisis was often presented as raise taxes or cut spending.  Anyone who has read broadly on this issue  knows both are needed.


We rely on long-established beliefs to help guide us along life paths.  It helps to think the floor or ground beneath our feet is solid.  It is not helpful, when we categorize groups of people.  “Yes/and” thinking is a better tool when trying to walk the path to peace. 


Even the most learned researchers and therapists quarrel about much.  Take their advice and mine carefully.  Don’t just listen to your heart, but also think; don’t just think, listen to your heart.  Heart and head working together increase the odds you will find useful advice amid all the promises and hopes pushed at you be others.  As others have noted, take what seems useful, leave the rest.


If  you need perfect posts, you will not find them  here;  I will understand if you don’t follow, like or share what  like me.  Not only am I dealing with an aging brain, but all of my life I have been plagued by dysgraphia–a learning disability,  Some of my posts might be peppered with bad spelling, poor punctuation, and worse words that make no sense.  If  you want to hang in with me, thank you; you are kind. If a post doesn’t make sense or bugs you too much, try reading it a few days later.  Often I catch the worse mistakes when I read the post after a few days.


Agree or disagree, comments are always welcomed.

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