Critical Thinking Vs. Being Critical

Thought Quote

I often worry that I am too ready to be critical of others. When asking myself why that may be, I rationalize that people are encouraged to think critically and that this is seen as a good thing. So if it is good to think critically, why do I feel so bad when I am critical? How do you think critically without being critical? I turned to the internet for some definitions and what I found was that thinking critically and being critical were not really related at all but in fact were completely opposite ideas.

The definition I found for critical was “inclined to find fault or to judge with severity, often too readily” (, whereas for thinking critically I found this… “Critical thinking is self-guided, self-disciplined thinking which attempts to reason at the highest level of quality in a fair-minded way… [People who think critically] are keenly aware of the inherently flawed nature of human thinking when left unchecked…   They use the intellectual tools that critical thinking offers – concepts and principles that enable them to analyze, assess, and improve thinking.   They work diligently to develop the intellectual virtues of intellectual integrity, intellectual humility, intellectual civility, intellectual empathy, intellectual sense of justice and confidence in reason.   They realize that no matter how skilled they are as thinkers, they can always improve their reasoning abilities and they will at times fall prey to mistakes in reasoning, human irrationality, prejudices, biases, distortions, uncritically accepted social rules and taboos, self-interest, and vested interest.”~ Linda Elder, September, 2007 (found on

So in essence being critical means judging someone else without putting much thought into it and thinking critically is all about being thoughtful, putting time and energy into examining the way that you think and whether or not your perspective of a given situation is accurate. Being critical is judging things outside yourself and thinking critically is examining a set of facts without prejudice and with the aim of finding the truth in your own mind.

My husband always says that I make everything a moral issue and I do. Why would I do any different? Why wouldn’t you think about what the right thing to do is and then act accordingly, instead of acting without thought and then rationalizing why it was the right thing to do, when in truth, it is merely what you wanted to do and whether it was right was never considered.

To answer the question that brought me here, the only way to avoid being critical, is to think critically. In order to think critically you must remove yourself from the question at hand and examine the issue rationally, with clarity and empathy. That last bit is the important part in my mind and the key to not being critical. If you truly strive to understand what might be motivating the other person’s behavior you might be more willing to give that person a break just the same as you might with your own behavior when, for example, you know you’ve had a headache all day and you snapped at someone for being too loud.

In my opinion the best way to avoid being critical of people, especially people you love, is to give them the benefit of the doubt. In the end the only thing you can really change about a situation is your attitude about it. Why not take a moment to examine your own mind and motivations critically and to decide if your criticisms might be better left unsaid.

Good Service Goes Both Ways.

Be a good guest!

Be a good guest!

The definition of economic trade is when a good or service is exchanged for something of equal value, most often money.  It is an unfortunate indicator of where our priorities lie that the one with the money in this exchange has the power, when again the value is supposed to be equal, and often wields that power poorly. Indeed if the interaction is equal, than why do we so often see and hear people treating the person serving them so disrespectfully.  Do we really value time, effort and service so far below money?

The result of this is that the person providing the goods or service has to jump through all kinds of hoops to make sure the customer has got their “money’s worth”.  And if the customer doesn’t believe that they have, they feel free to subject their server to all kinds of verbal abuse.  If a mistake was made with your dinner for example the impact to you is simply time wasted (if by wasted you mean sitting at your ease and chatting with your dinner companion) and perhaps minimal distress if your are hangry, while new food is made.  The impact on your server, who may or may not be the one at fault, is wasted time while they redo your order, embarrassment and possibly a loss of money if their tip is lessened.  I’m not saying you have to eat something that is not done correctly (although you could consider it if the food is safe to eat) or that good service is unimportant.  But in light of this disparity of impact  the least you could do is be kind while informing the person of the mistake.

I worked as a movie theater manager for many years and as a manager I was often called in when someone complained.  These complaints ranged from a parent saying they thought the film was inappropriate for their children, to people who simply didn’t like the movie they had sat all the way through, to a lady who swore that the people in front of her were terrorists while she swayed and slurred and reeked of alcohol.  These encounters were often rather nasty in tone.  It seemed as though they thought that they must overreact to the situation in order to get satisfaction, in this case free passes.  Naturally these altercations were uncomfortable for me and even more so when the customers children were present.  I’m not sure that these folks considered the example they were setting for their children.  But I will say that imagining the distress these parents must feel, when their children throw the same kinds of tantrums they are learning from the parents own behavior, offered me some small, petty satisfaction at the time.  The torments those parents are in for when those children become teenagers I wouldn’t wish on anyone.

That’s the thing about being a good guest not only are you lessening the evil of a situation by responding in a pleasant and understanding manner you are also setting a good example and having a positive impact on those around you.

I often try to take being a good guest to the next level just as I would when providing good customer service.  I’m sure we can all remember a time when someone provided us with exceptional service and really went above and beyond to do so.  Likewise those of us that have been the one providing the service can probably remember a time when a patron was especially kind or helpful.  I personally try to be the exceptional one.  A couple of the ways that I try to be a good guest are, picking up all my own and other peoples trash as I am exiting a movie theater and piling up all my dishes with trash on the top and setting them near the edge of the table at restaurants.  I’m sure there are lots of other ways that you can strive to be a good guest.  If you have an example of something that you do to be a good guest, feel free to tell me about it in the comments.

I’m sure that if you asked most people if they would like to make the world a better place they would say yes.  Well being a good guest, whether that means simply being kind and patient or taking it to the next level, is a simple way to do just that!