The art of thinking clearly

 May 20, 2015

In one of my previous blog posts, I wrote about how in a recent training I was conducting on influence and persuasion, one of the participants asked me if I could recommend a book on story-telling and I recommended The Moth. Another participant in that training session also suggested a book called The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions by a Swiss author named Ralph Dobelli. The participant was recommending it because in each (very short) chapter Dobelli tells a story.

I had heard of the book but not read it and so, now armed with a recommendation; I sought it out for myself.

What I found, to my amazement, was that The Art of Thinking Clearly  virtually dismantles and exposes our course on influence and persuasion by revealing why people are influenced by the certain methods we employ. The book outlines our human thinking errors or foibles. Originally survival benefits, Dobelli argues that some of the thinking processes (and there are many of them) that once may have saved us, are now cognitive mistakes that can be very detrimental to us in the modern day.

He talks about items such as, making decisions on buying and selling stocks (the herd mentality – one of his passions), the difference between risk and uncertainty and how bonuses destroy motivation. It is a very entertaining read on two counts: if you are interested in the mind and in clear thinking, there is some very interesting information and also, Dobelli writes in an interesting style with many entertaining anecdotes that display his points.

The one chapter* I’d like to hone in on is: “If you have nothing to say; say nothing”, which Dobelli calls the ‘Twaddle Tendency’. His contention is that extra chatter extends to not just a lot of talking, but to hyperactivity, which he suggests is designed to mask the hardship of being succinct.

According to the author, former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch is cited as having once said in an interview: “You would not believe how difficult it is to be simple and clear.”

Dobelli concludes: “…verbal expression is the mirror of the mind. Clear thoughts become clear statements, whereas ambiguous ideas transform into vacant ramblings.”*

What came to mind when I read this chapter was how amazing our course ‘Think on Your Feet’ is at helping people get beyond waffle, to have clearer thinking and get their point across succinctly. It also drove home the fact that having taught the course for eight years, I now take the ability to organise my thoughts clearly, for granted. Yet, Dobelli is saying that it is a natural inclination to waffle when we are put on the spot and found lacking on a particular topic.

I realise, of course, in re-reading this post, that I certainly could be accused of waffling a bit myself in these paragraphs, so let me put it into a Think on Your Feet ‘Cause and Effect’ plan.

When I was running our Influence and Persuasion course, a participant introduced me to Ralph Dobelli’s book on The Art of Thinking Clearly, which struck me as having three interesting qualities: it exposed the reasons that our Influence and Persuasion tactics work; it demonstrates many other areas to be aware of when making decisions, and; it’s written in a story-filled entertaining manner.

The book’s chapter on the ‘Twaddle Tendency’ had me thinking about Think on your Feet and how good it is at achieving: clarity, brevity and impact, which I had started to take for granted.

Yes, I could have said it all in those two paragraphs but I’d like to think it would not have been as entertaining and I would have been in trouble with our Marketing Department for not having written enough!


Grab the The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions and see if it helps you to develop clearer thinking, or better still, check out our Think on Your Feet training program.

*Dobelli, Rolf (2021-03-28). The Art of Thinking Clearly: Better Thinking, Better Decisions (p. 177). Hodder & Stoughton. Kindle Edition.

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About the Author:

Tim Higgs  

Tim has been involved in the corporate training industry for over 15 years; seven of these have been as the Portfolio Manager and Senior Facilitator at New Horizons. Tim holds a Graduate Diploma (Psych/Couns), a masters’ degree in Cultural Psychology and a bachelor’s degree in Business, giving him a unique theoretical backdrop for understanding human performance in the workplace. This complements his actual experience of working within the corporate sector in sales and management positions and owning and running a small business. Having worked with individuals and groups in both clinical and business settings, Tim has a fantastic insight into human behaviour, motivation and the issue of human change.

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