My most requested keynote presentation is Emotional Branding. During this program, I discuss the importance of using emotion to communicate and connect with those around us. I prove, through research and case studies, how using emotion in a business and sales situation garners greater results than merely using features, benefits, price and policy. However, I do not promote the idea that all we need to do is to strike emotional cords to win the communication battle. In my book, “Powered by Purpose,” I write in length about the importance of critical thinking when navigating through the business and personal world of decision making. Emotional branding is useless without critical thinking. Understanding your values and working with purpose is extremely difficult without critical thinking. Here’s an excerpt from my book Powered by Purpose, which discusses the importance of critical thinking when using values to support your purpose.
From Chapter 5: You know how important it is to identify and develop your values. But just what is your purpose? And how do you know that your values will support it? Two words: critical thinking. You will need some serious critical thinking skills to hone in on your purpose, to articulate it to others, and to plan how you will achieve it. Okay, but what is critical thinking?
“Critical” does not mean negative; we’re not talking about telling someone what they’ve done wrong. The word can be traced back to Greek origins, and it’s useful to follow this trail for a little bit. Related to the meaning of “critical” are verbs such as “separate,” “discern,” “distinguish,” “pick out,” “choose,” “decide,” “judge,” “estimate,” “bring to trial,” and “accuse,” and nouns such as “judgment,” “standard,” “criterion,” and “tribunal.” You can see a number of judicial associations with the term.
Less obvious, but just as significant, are medical associations that emphasize a crisis, turning point, or decisive moment. So thinking critically encompasses the urgency of crisis; the rule of a standard or criterion; the analytical processes of discerning, distinguishing, separating, and choosing; and the conclusiveness of judgment.
Most of us don’t believe we need any training to be good critical thinkers. After all, we’ve been thinking and deciding all our lives. True enough. But how often have you taken a mental step back and asked yourself to reflect on that thinking? How often have you consciously observed your thinking, let alone your process of reasoning toward a decision? It’s probably far less frequent than you believe.
We are so intimately connected with our own thinking that it’s easy to believe we are already really good thinkers. It’s actually quite difficult to become an observer to your own thinking since observing is a form of thinking! But there are techniques you and the people in your organization can use to support, develop, and hone your existing skills.
To support your purpose, you and everyone in your organization have to be willing to hear each other out. This can happen only if you, as the leader, empower and excite people to speak their mind. Once they have that feeling of freedom, they also need to listen to each other. Not everyone is going to arrive at the same conclusion, but welcoming—and expecting—inquiry is part of supporting the critical thinking process. Here are some basic steps to support that. We’ll go into these in more detail in Chapter 9.
Listen. When someone comes to you with an idea, take the time to really pay attention to what that person is saying without moving in to steer the conversation in the direction you want to go.
Rephrase. Once a pitch has been made, rephrase it to make sure you understand it.
Ask for confirmation or correction to make sure you’ve got the idea right.
Ask for help uncovering unstated assumptions. Examine how thoroughly the idea has been presented and ask, for example, where the idea was generated or what got the person thinking about the idea in the first place.
Solicit counter-examples to see what reasoning works and, arguably more importantly, what doesn’t.
You and your team are experts at what you do. It took time to develop that expertise! There was not only the time on the job but the years of education that provided you with some of the basic skills required to navigate through your daily life. No matter how talented you are, you can’t become excellent at anything without training. Consider how long it takes someone to develop a musical or sports skill. A ballet dancer doesn’t enter the world with strong muscles or practiced technique any more than a talented mathematician starts out knowing how to solve esoteric formulas. Developing critical thinking skills also takes time, despite the fact that each one of us is a thinker already. But just as an athlete must work hard to develop raw talent into skilled artistry, so, too, the thinker must develop rational processes. One of the best ways to do that efficiently is to focus on what you do best and apply critical thinking concepts to those areas.
Once you have a sense of essential critical thinking skills, you need to refine them, beginning with consciously applying them to your daily interactions with others. Seeking out texts—including this book—that speak directly to questions you have and exploring answers to those questions will also help lead you to new insights.
The next chapter is devoted to honing your critical thinking skills, which will help your emotional branding.
Special thanks to Gaby Av for the image.