Police Psychology: A Dozen Ways to Think Faster & Smarter
by Dr. Bill Cottringer
Fast and smart thinking is a valuable skill for police officers to use, especially in being resourceful in thinking on their feet in fast-paced, precarious situations, solving critical problems quickly and effectively, and responding to unusual, emergency or otherwise dangerous situations. Here are a dozen tricks you can easily apply to improve the speed and smartness of your own thinking in doing police or security work that counts:
- Think ‘cleanly’ by avoiding thinking about what you are thinking, what speed your thoughts are or aren’t going, all the many obstacles to getting results you want, or even what results you are getting or not getting. This is like worrying about all the things that could go wrong in your golf or baseball swing, making them all to come true at once during the first Tee drive or at-bat.
- Try to think of only one thing at a time to get through it completely. Multi-tasking is a myth, because all you are doing is several things incompletely and getting mediocre results. This is especially true in thinking because it is your thinking that drives your actions, conscious or unconscious.
- Always work from a do-list with drop dead dates and hold yourself accountable for timely results. Out of sight, out of mind so to speak, regarding this trite but true trick.
- Trust your gut and instincts. Thinking about such intuitions can make them more confusing or complicated than they are and paralyze your actions. Besides, at the end of the day, most decisions you make are driven by unconscious thinking you aren’t even aware of until the action is completed. If you really want to think about this do it in a critical way so as to validate your first gut reactions for future use.
- Always make an effort to leave your emotions out of thinking and talking, because they do complicate matters worse and prevent quick solutions or results, everyone having to unravel the feelings component of the issue first. The more appropriate time for such emotions is through after-the-fact examination and release, for closure purpose.
- Record your first thought on solving a problem. That way you will gain confidence that your gut is more often right than not and encourage you to use it more. Again, if it isn’t written down, it becomes an out of sight, out of mind trace blur.
- Learn to ask better questions to get better answers and then listen to those answers closer for how they can help you in solving a problem more effectively. There are always a lot of good answers and help for the asking. This is like fixing an electrical device problem by making sure it is plugged in first.
- Include the additional words “and…” after saying “Yes,” and … “but…” after “No”. to include important qualifiers the first time around, instead of going back and having to clarify that later. Having to go back and re-doing anything is a huge time waster. It is always better to get it right the first time.
- Don’t think about something twice, at least in the same way. If you are wrong, that just reinforces a wrong, unproductive thought and if you are right you have wasted time acting on the rightness.
- Visualize complicated situations in pictures to see details clearer, rather than trying to think through these situations in words. There is a very good reason for the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words.” It is true as blue can be. Besides, pictures more accurately represent the real objects they stand for, much more so than abstract words which often pose much more distance and un-clarity between the word and the real object it is supposed to be representing.
- When you get stuck trying to solve a problem in one “language” stop and translate it into another (like pictures or math for words). This is the basis for Albert Einstein’s brilliant quote, “You can’t solve a problem using the same language that created it.”
- Talk slowly to make your words count most and allow people to hear everything you are saying, including the way you are saying it, without having to repeat or clarify what you are trying to say.
One extra tip on faster, smarter thinking is to work hard on increasing your store of effective common sense short-cuts—this is the type of common sense thinking that Mark Twain meant when he defined common sense as “the mere knack of seeing something the way it is and doing something the way it should be done.” That sure saves a lot of extra, wasted thinking time aimlessly meandering down dead-end detours. The mantra, “ready, aim, fire” is still the one of choice.
Site Administrator: Gary S. Aumiller, Ph.D. ABPP
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