5 Steps to Mastering Alternative Thinking

5 Steps to Mastering Alternative Thinking

Last Updated on May 22, 2024 by Avia

Alternative thinking is an essential life skill that can help you navigate complex situations, cultivate a healthy behavior change, and foster interpersonal relationships. It’s a must-have soft skill, especially for social and corporate leaders. 

But, like most soft skills, cultivating alternative thinking requires a great deal of time and patience. 

This article shall expound further on what constitutes alternative thinking. We’ll then highlight a five-step process to nurturing alternative thinking and healing in your behavior plan. 

Introducing Alternative Thinking

5 Steps to Mastering Alternative Thinking

The term “alternative thinking” can have several connotations, depending on the context in which it’s applied. However, the consensus definition is ‘critical thinking.’ 

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According to psychologists, alternative thinking is a discreet definition of critical thinking that avoids the negative connotations associated with the word “critical.” 

If you challenge a person to think critically, they may misconstrue your advice as an insult on their intelligence. Interestingly, the same person is unlikely to take offense when you nudge them to ‘think alternatively.’

The latter expression says the same thing, only in a kinder and more tactical manner. It eliminates any presumptions that the statement’s object has some form of intellectual deficit. 

Alternative thinking should be an essential component of anyone’s behavior plan. The skill is especially key when pursuing a more fulfilling behavior change. 

Benefits of Alternative Thinking

Mastering alternative thinking is all about objectiveness. It entails looking at a problem from different dimensions before making judgments. 

Possessing this skill provides multiple benefits. Notably, it helps foster logical, unbiased thinking. People who think critically are more likely to find solutions to complex problems faster than those who approach similar situations in the abstract. 

Alternative thinking also reduces anxieties associated with brainstorming ideas. When you can draft an action plan fast, a problem appears less intimidating. 

Moreover, alternative thinking may come in handy during conflict resolution. The ability to view a situation from multiple viewpoints before forming an opinion can make you more accepting of other people. It’s akin to perspective taking, which usually involves taking someone else’s place to understand their thought process and behavior patterns.

Steps to Mastering Alternative Thinking

Now that we’ve talked about what it is and the benefits of alternative thinking – let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. Here are five simple steps to mastering alternative thinking.

5 Steps to Mastering Alternative Thinking

1. Understand the Signs of Irrational Thinking

Irrational thinking is the exact opposite of alternative thinking. Only one set of thoughts can exist in an individual at a particular point. That means you’re first an irrational thinker before you can think alternatively. 

Emotional reasoning is the first sign of irrational thinking. If you find yourself responding to every situation emotionally rather than intellectually, then it’s about time you cultivate alternative thinking. 

Irrational thinkers are also culprits of generalization. They tend to judge others based on their belonging to a group. 

Other tell-tale signs of irrational behavior include jumping to conclusions, blame games, and personalization.

2. Make a Checklist

Now that you’ve determined you’re an irrational thinker and have resolved to cultivate alternative thinking, the next step is to make a comparative checklist of self-sabotaging and replacement thoughts. 

Self-sabotaging thoughts represent your past. These are the reasoning patterns you want to put behind you as you develop into an alternative thinker. 

Examples of self-sabotaging thoughts include feelings of low self-esteem, self-doubt, and self-guilt. Fostering alternative thinking is impossible when you continue to harbor these unproductive thoughts. 

On the other hand, replacement thoughts represent the new system of thoughts you wish to cultivate. Examples include listening to people empathetically and wanting to extend a helping hand.

3. Practice Affirmations

It’s not enough to create a checklist of your desired thoughts and behavioral changes. It’s important to read the list as frequently as possible. 

Revisiting the checklist often helps to affirm your resolve to discard self-defeating reasoning and embrace productive thoughts. 

Have one particular affirmation that directly speaks to your desire to become an alternative thinker. It could be a subtle phrase like “No judging without confirming.” 

Repeating this phrase regularly will train your brain to form the implied habit. Over a long enough timeline, alternative thinking will come naturally.

4. Cultivate Curiosity

5 Steps to Mastering Alternative Thinking

You know that old saying, curiosity killed the cat. But the same curiosity saved the rat. So, it depends on how you harness the trait. 

Curiosity can be particularly helpful when trying to foster alternative thinking and healing in your behavior plan. 

Always ask questions rather than jumping to irrational conclusions. 

Strive to understand even the most basic phenomena in life. 

Even if you don’t find a deeper meaning to certain things, cultivating curiosity will help you develop into an astute alternative thinker. It will prevent you from accepting everything at face value.  

5. Start Small and Build Momentum Incrementally

Becoming an alternative thinker doesn’t happen overnight. Besides, you don’t need life-changing dilemmas to test your critical thinking skills. 

Start small and see if you’ve made any significant progress since you resolved to become an alternative thinker. 

Whether you’re a parent or corporate leader, there will be smaller decisions that require your ruling on a daily basis. Examples include arbitrating feuds and performance appraisals. Leverage these opportunities to put your alternative reasoning skills to the test. 

You could also practice by simulating more critical real-life scenarios. The idea is to prepare yourself adequately when such circumstances present themselves. 

Wrap Up

Mastering alternative thinking takes time. Applying this life skill in day-to-day scenarios requires an even more diligent approach. 

But by constant practice and sheer determination, you’ll be able to leverage alternative thinking to inspire transformative behavior change.

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