The interesting thing about thinking is that everyone thinks they think. I have listened to the thought process of many people and the sad fact is that so many of them are merely repeating the thoughts of others that they have heard or read about.
I posed a question to a man and I was impressed by his answer. It was a well thought out answer and, until that moment, I had not given him enough credit for his thinking skills. A few days later, I was talking to a friend of his who had wonderful thinking skills and I started to tell him how his friend had answered my question. As I began, he told me verbatim what his friend had said. It turned out that the two of them had discussed the subject before, and he had plagiarized his friend’s concepts.
Many times, you will say something and the other person will say, “That’s what I thought” or “That’s just what I was thinking” and, more often than not, you’ll let it go and say nothing. And, for a very long time, that’s exactly what I did with one of my clients . . . I kept letting it go until I couldn’t let it go anymore.
One day, I finished saying something and she said, “That’s what I was thinking” and I said, “No, it isn’t. You didn’t think any such thing.” She said nothing. After that incident, I decided to not only test her thinking skills but to help her develop them. My strategy was to make her tell me what she was thinking before I gave her my answer. I made her exhaust every possible answer she could come up with before I told her what was in my mind.
What she learned about herself was that she was just repeating what others had said and she wasn’t thinking for herself. It was a very telling experience for her and it shocked her. After that, I had to devise ways to get her to come up with original thoughts and I had to keep remembering not to say a word until she had exhausted the subject.
If you want to see if the people you know can think, let them tell you everything about any given subject before you give your opinion. My guess is that most of them will give you other people’s rehashed ideas, not their own original thoughts.