Dialectical Thinking

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Dialectical Thinking

THC Editorial Team May 20, 2024
Photo by Alice Yamamura on Unsplash - Modified by THC (article on Dialectical Thinking)
Photo by Alice Yamamura on Unsplash - Modified by THC


Dialectical thinking involves ways in which opposites can relate to one another. It can involve considering topics or ideas from multiple perspectives, acknowledging the potential validity of more than one set of ideas, and even encompassing the reconciliation of previously separated viewpoints. As such, dialectical thinking can be beneficial in various aspects of individual life and society.

Renowned scholars who promoted dialectics and dialectical thought include German philosophers Karl Marx and Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel and early 20th-century psychologists Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky.1 More recently, since the 1980s, a greater emphasis has been placed on the study of dialectical thinking.1 The usefulness of dialectical thinking is studied according to various applications, including conflict resolution, creative problem solving, child and continuing education, individual and group psychology, and sociological and economic challenges.

Contrary to dialectical thinking are polarized thinking, dichotomous thinking, and unipolar thinking.2 These points of view generally refer to black-or-white or all-or-nothing thinking without allowing for compromise between these two opposites, or acceptance of viewpoints beyond one’s own.

Potential Benefits and Other Impacts of Dialectical Thinking

  • Dialectical thinking approaches are used in order to develop several psychotherapeutic interventions, including cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT)dialectical behavior therapy (DBT), and acceptance and commitment therapy (ACT), among others.2
  • People with strong dialectical thinking skills often show greater flexibility in coping with various stressful events and vice versa.3
  • Improved problem-solving, greater creativity, and an increased capacity for acceptance.2
  • By allowing for greater coping, and creative problem-solving, dialectical thinking can also help people have more open-mindedness, be more tolerant of differing views, and help come up with proactive, integrative and inclusive solutions to such challenges.
  • Having greater confidence in one’s ability to tolerate conflicting points of view may allow for a person to be more relaxed and accepting, believing in their ability to handle greater mental and emotional distress and adversity.
  • Potential improvements in handling emotional dysregulation, impulse control, reduced automatic negative thoughts, and relationship challenges.2
  • Individuals with higher levels of dialectical thinking may also encounter more anxiety. This could be attributed to being aware of increased information on contradictions, uncertainties, and other challenges.3

How to Potentially Increase One’s Dialectical Thinking

  • Ask, “What’s missing?”This can help provide a more balanced approach, with greater context and nuance.
  • Practice viewing a situation from all main perspectives.
  • Mindfulness: Becoming more mindful and aware of one’s thinking and thought processes can allow more space for dialectical thinking. Additional mindfulness features, such as a non-judgmental approach, can further allow the openness needed to allow for opposites and paradoxes to exist.
  • Aim to move to “both–and” “either–or” thinking, thus seeking commonalities between ideas.4
  • Practice mental humility: consideration that perhaps one does not have a monopoly on truth, and that there may be additional truths to one’s own.
  • Aim to see the connectedness between others.4
  • Have openness to the possibility of change and changing one’s point of view
  • Treat others as one would like to be treated.4


  1. Veraksa, N., Basseches, M. (2022). Dialectical Thinking. In: Veraksa, N., Pramling Samuelsson, I. (eds) Piaget and Vygotsky in XXI century. Early Childhood Research and Education: An Inter-theoretical Focus, vol 4. Springer, Cham.
  2. Fruzzetti, A. E. (2022). Dialectical thinking. Cognitive and Behavioral Practice, 29(3), 567–570.
  3. Ng, H. K. Y., & Chen, S. X. (2023). How does social complexity facilitate coping flexibility? The mediating role of dialectical thinking. Anxiety, stress, and coping, 36(3), 291–303.
  4. Linehan, M. (2015). DBT Skills Training Handouts and Worksheets, and DBT Skills Training Manual.

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