The Thinking Coach: 5 Tips on Helping Others Think Critically

The ideas in this post have been inspired by Think Smarter by Michael Kallet. Make sure to check out my Think Smarter by Michael Kallet: Summary too!

If you have read my “Think Smarter by Michael Kallet: Summary” you’ll realize the importance of thinking critically when facing problems you are trying to solve. Whilst that article looks at how you can help yourself think critically, this article aims to look at how you can help others think critically. If you are a manager, supervisor or even friend, helping others think clearly is crucial if you want to help them get the best out of themselves.

This is where the role of “The Thinking Coach” becomes important. As the name suggests, a thinking coach is there to listen to others and help them think for themselves. Instead of hinting to others what they believe the correct answer is, the thinking coach helps the other person engage in the process of critical thinking and organize their thoughts into useful insights.

The Book Think Smarter by Michael Kallet provides many more useful tips into getting the best out of others, however, I will provide you with a rough framework to help you hit the ground running.

“The Thinking Coach” 5 Step Framework

1. Make time for others

Make sure you do not have any other commitments influencing how much time you spend when talking to the other person. The other person will be able to tell that you are in a rush and you will not be able to delve deep into issues you are trying to help them understand.

2. You do not need to be an expert

Being a thinking coach is an accessible role anybody can take on. You do not need extensive experience with the problem at hand as you are not making suggestions towards solving the problem. You are instead helping the other person navigate their thoughts and help them think for themselves.

3. It is your job to listen, not influence

When someone comes to you with a problem, it can be tempting to offer practical advice and guidance. Whilst this can be useful in some scenarios when you are taking on the role of the thinking coach, you should try to avoid this. As their coach, you are helping them find the right answer, which is inside of them, rather than providing them with one you think is correct.

4. Wait for an answer

Dead silences can feel awkward, but don’t be tempted to try and fill these gaps with an additional narrative. Instead, let the other person think about what you have asked them and give them as much time as they need to respond. There is nothing wrong with giving others a little silence to think, and by doing this they may just stumble upon things they have never considered.

5. Make sure you listen and clarify points

Make sure you are listening to what the other person is saying and try to understand the meaning behind what is said. Don’t see the thinking coach as a checklist that needs to be completed, instead look at it as a dynamic role which can adapt depending on the conversation. If the other person says something which is not clear, don’t be afraid to clarify what they mean so you can ask further informed questions later.

2 thoughts on “The Thinking Coach: 5 Tips on Helping Others Think Critically”

  1. Really interesting insights! I’m guilty a lot of the time of trying to give people solutions that I myself would use, so I think I will try and encourage them a bit more now 🙂

    1. Thanks 🙂 – I agree, I think sometimes listening and letting the other person find the answer can be just as effective as whittling through a list of suggestions sometimes 🙂

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