For a class in Critical Thinking that I teach, I have students do an Action Research project. They are to put the pieces of the project together as the semester progresses and present a final report at the end.
This is because Critical Thinking is not just a course in logic; it deals with thinking about one’s life, identifying problem areas, using one’s critical thinking faculities to develop a simple plan of action, following through on that plan, and then reflecting on the outcomes. In other words, Critical Thinking is not just about thinking correctly but also about transferring thinking into action to improve our lives.
One student did his research on Making New Friends. He set his goal to talk with at least five new people each Sunday at a church he had just recently begun attending and learn some story from their life. He did this for about six weeks.
He said in his reflection paper that this simple plan radically changed his perspective. Previously, he had assumed it was other people’s responsibility to make friends with him. This was the first time where he took the initiative and the results were beyond expectations.
Inspired by my student’s paper, I decided to do the same. This past Sunday I sat next to a lady I did not know and, smiling, asked, “So, tell me a story about yourself.” She then proceeded to tell me about her 26-year-old son who was drinking with some friends and foolishly got behind the wheel of a car and backed over one of his friends, killing her. He is now is jail. I was shocked. What a story! What a tragedy! What a burden to bear alone! I asked for the young man’s email and said I would try to connect with him.
Everyone has a story to tell, many of them tragic, some encouraging, and some hilarious. And we all need others to listen to our stories; but we also must take the initiative and simply ask to hear the stories of others. If you want friends; be a friend. If you want to make an impact, let others tell you their story.
Greg Waddell provides consulting services for churches and organizations. Contact Dr. Waddell today at gregwaddell[at]leadstrategic.com to discuss the needs of your organization.