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How to Use ChatGPT to Think More Clearly

ChatGPT is more than a text generator. It can also be used as a training tool. For YOU.

Have you ever taken a course in logic? Or maybe debate? How about computer science?


No? But I bet at one point in high school, you had to do proofs of mathematical theorems, right? (sigh) Maybe on that last one I'm just showing my age.... I remember doing more than I ever cared for.


The point I'm getting at is that learning how to think logically, step by step, is an invaluable problem-solving skill, though I rather suspect that few people have really ever learned it.


Let's put it into every day terms: Do you ever have trouble asking for something? A lot of people do. Maybe it's not being able to muster enough courage to ask for what you want or need. Maybe it's the fear of being told "no" that's holding you back. Or the fear that you may look stupid or foolish. (Who HASN'T dealt with that one?!)


Or maybe it's just not knowing how to frame your question clearly and specifically.


 
Technology can train your brain to think more logically, clearly, and specifically. Important for life, not just for interacting with a computer program!
 

A woman sitting on her sofa with her notebook computer on her lap is happy with what she sees on its screen.
Surprise! AI is rather useful.

What is ChatGPT good for?

ChatGPT can help. It can teach you how to think logically, how to guide another party (even a computer) from vague generalities to specifics. First, though, you need to know what ChatGPT can do well and what it can't.


Developed by artificial intelligence (AI) research company Open AI, ChatGPT stands for "Chat Generative Pre-Trained Transformer." It's an AI chatbot technology that can process our natural human language and generate a response. In other words, it enables us to have a "conversation" with a computer program that understands our everyday speech, allowing us to:

  • ask questions and receive written answers

  • request research and have it formatted as we wish to receive it in written form (in paragraphs, as bullet points, in a table format, etc.)

  • create articles, social media posts, essays, code and emails within seconds


A motorcyclist pulls up to a sign that reads "wrong way."
Speed is great, but make sure you're going in the right direction.

Fast is not always right

While ChatGPT can produce written context at lightening speeds, there's no guarantee that what it writes is 100% accurate. Its database of knowledge (as of this writing) extends only through September 2021, so queries needing much more recent facts will either go unanswered or return incomplete or erroneous information. And it's been known to sometimes make stuff up. Yup, just like us. So don't take everything it spits out as gospel. Check its work!


ChatGPT is also not a creative vehicle, so if you're looking for it to produce original ideas, you're out of luck. What it can do is inspire YOU to come up with original, creative thoughts based on its answers to your queries. Think of it as your researcher and your muse, all rolled into one.


Two elementary school girls are sitting side by side in a classroom, with one quite noticeably looking over at her friend's paper to cheat on a test.
Remember, cheaters often get caught.

Don't expect ChatGPT to do your entire project. You won't like the results.

Warning: don't take the lazy route! I would strongly discourage you from completely lifting a ChatGPT response and submitting it as your own. While you probably won't be struck down with accusations of plagiarism (and there ARE apps out there that can check the authenticity of articles), it's more likely that real human beings will quickly recognize your content as robotically-generated. How? Because it will sound flat, devoid of personality, rather bland and - most significantly - like every other piece of material resulting from other people asking similar queries.


If you're going to use its content, you need to find a way to present it in your own voice, filtered through your own experience, and powered with your original thought. Think of ChatGPT as furnishing you with the raw research, a first draft. The content still needs massaging, which you will do by making it your own.


A lioness on a stool glares at a lion tamer.
Who's really training who?

Technology to train the human mind

Which leads us back to the premise of this article.


When you are asking for information or giving instructions, whether it's to a person or a machine, you need to be clear and specific about what you want from them. Not everyone knows how to do that. But think of it like this: most of us need context. We want to know ... what are you doing? Why do you need help from us? How does what I give you fit into the overall picture? Then when we're asked for something, it makes sense and we can better understand how to answer you. We visualize your situation and can structure our reply to fit your particular needs.


Machines work the same way. Imagine an information funnel that's wide at the top and progressively narrows down to a small outlet, You're going to pour into the top a lot of information. It works its way down and becomes more refined as you tell it how to filter out the non-essentials. You do this by providing the relevant context for your query and follow-up with specific questions that fine-tune that request.


You don't need to construct one long sentence for ChatGPT that covers EVERYTHING. Instead, you'll type several sentences that drive the conversation, narrowing the focus from the general to the particular. That's why ChatGPT has the word "chat" in it. It mimics the exchange between two people to get at a specific point. Except in this case, the other person beside yourself is a machine with incredibly fast access to data, one that can organize a great deal of information into an organized response.


The same processes that you learn to work with ChatGPT can also be applied to everyday human interactions that have nothing to do with robots. Never stop training your brain. An active mind is part of the secret sauce to a healthy, long life!

A young man at a whiteboard draws diagrams and descriptions for a new product.
Step by step

How to work with ChatGPT

When you work with ChatGPT (or one of its AI competitors), you train its responses with your questions. As a general rule, start with the following and work your way down:

  1. Assign it a character with a specific role. For example, tell it that "you (ChatGPT) are a marketing specialist with 20 years of experience."

  2. Tell the AI specifically what you want, the details you need, the kind of information that its character would have access to and be knowledgeable about.

  3. Provide examples of headlines you're looking for, the tone of voice you want the result to resemble.

  4. See what ChatGPT gives you and adjust your previous prompts. For example, ask it to focus on just the latest innovations in recycling in the last 10 years or ask it to provide its response with subheadings that break up the article it's creating into separate sections.

  5. Describe the type of output you want. Do you want a table of information? A 500 word essay with an introduction, five main points, and a conclusion?

  6. Fine tune the results. Ask for additional examples or if the response is not what you're looking for, start over by telling it to ignore everything that came before and begin again with a new query.


A man reads a book, a cartoon lightbulb floating above his head, while image of cash floats in the air beside him.
The real value lies in our creativity.

Thinking clearly and logically for ourselves

The steps described above are the same as when we're on our own as human beings, with all our emotions and distractions in tow, and need to ask for help. Try this:

  • Clarify in your own mind exactly what you want BEFORE you begin asking. Visualize the desired result. An image or scene played out in your head will greatly help you describe what you need.

  • Give just enough background or information to prompt a useful answer. Context matters! For example, if you need help with a malfunctioning computer, describe what make, model, operating system, and program you're working with and describe the error message (or non-responsiveness of the system). Explain what you were doing before the problem occurred and what may have caused it.

  • Frame your question with a specific request.

  • Narrow in on the specifics after receiving a more general answer than expected.

  • Or start over and come at the problem from another angle.

Nothing is perfect. Not us, not AI. But it can be a great tool to help us get to where we want to be, whether we're collaborating with a computer or another human being.


If you want to try using ChatGPT, go their website, https://chat.openai.com/auth/login. Follow my guidelines and see how they help you ask and receive exactly what you're looking for. And let me know about your experience in the comments below! I'm especially interested in seeing how using an AI tool like ChatGPT can train your own mind to do a better job of asking other people for what you need.



Laura's Quick Tips

  1. Technology can help us train the original computer - our brain.

  2. The hot new tech can be alluring, but don't assign it godlike powers. Learn its weaknesses as well as its strengths, or inevitably you'll be disappointed.

  3. Remember that a tool is still just a tool. Your ideas, filtered through your own personality and experiences, have to be YOUR creation, not some clever machine's.

  4. The logical progression in questioning is to start with the general picture and then hone in on the specifics of what you want or need.

  5. While tech is great, don't let it become a crutch. The same processes that you learn to work with an AI tool like ChatGPT can also be applied to everyday human interactions that have nothing to do with robots. Never stop training your brain. An active mind is part of the secret sauce to a healthy, long life!


Is your problem asking for help based more on reluctance or a fear of rejection? Hmm... ChatGPT is not going to ameliorate that (unless it's to build confidence through more expertise at asking questions). But you know what can? This article and video on battling self-sabotage or, as I like to refer to it, kicking negativity to the curb.


 
Laura Doman smiling

I'm Laura Doman, a former tech industry sales executive, hands-on mom, voice & TV/film actress, and improv performer. I create memorable characters that tell my client's stories, from the friendly CEO touting new upgrades to your sassy best gal pal dispensing some necessary, real-world advice...Let's Talk!

 


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