Critical thinking is the art and science of filtering through information to make a logical decision. Critical thinking is more like a state of mind rather than a strategy. Learning how to think critically can help us yield better solutions in all aspects of life.
There are effective learning techniques to help anyone practise critical thinking. That is how one learns how to think critically. And the better the methods are, the better your reasoning skills will be.
What Is Critical Thinking?
Before we discuss how to think critically, let’s look at what is critical thinking. By definition, the act of analysing a problem or fact thoroughly is critical thinking. You have to systematically and deliberately process information while critical thinking.
As a result, critical thinking helps you to understand things better. And that results in constructive decision-making. So critical thinking is very similar to strategic thinking in a way.
Why Does Critical Thinking Matter?
Critical thinking skills are required in many decision-making and problem-solving situations. Reaching a rational conclusion in complex cases can be challenging. And for doing so, you need to be able to analyse information meticulously. Critical thinking skills help you to make better-informed decisions in everyday life.
Strong critical thinking abilities are essential for both academic and professional environments. Students can engage in advanced learning using critical thinking and reading skills. Moreover, employers value workers who can tackle any problem using logical methods.
Critical thinkers view situations from different perspectives and provide the best solutions. The habit of critical thinking makes a person more objective and less opinionated. Consequently, critical thinking allows you to give solutions free from emotions and assumptions. After all, critical thinking is a highly contextual and fact-based practice.
How To Think Critically: 10 Powerful Techniques
How to think critically? First, you need to fine-tune your habits to hone this skill. And you have to revisit them regularly to achieve critical intelligence. Second, to learn how to think critically, you need patience, practice and time.
Here are 10 powerful techniques to master critical thinking ability and develop further.
1. Practise careful & keen observation
Observational skills are one of the fundamental tenets. It lets you understand how to think critically. If you are observant, you can sense and identify a new problem very quickly. Consequently, observational skills help you understand when a problem might arise. And you can take precautions as necessary.
You can very well develop and enhance your critical thinking skills. But that depends on how much you work on your observation skills. Practising to pay closer attention to your surroundings is a very effective technique. It improves not only your observational skills but also your attention span.
In addition, slow down the pace of processing information and practice mindfulness. To be mindful means to be wary of your surroundings and act accordingly. The power of observation can benefit you greatly, regardless of where you work or study.
Active observational skills can also help you notice trends. A keen set of eyes is thus an excellent help for effective data processing.
2. Exercise emotional & mental moderation
Approaching an issue in the same manner every time can become tedious. Moreover, one method might not work for all problems. Therefore, you need to try varying approaches while resolving an issue. It is the key to know how to think critically and develop on it.
Relying on fixed approaches may not serve you well in every situation. And critical thinkers are well aware of that. Masters of critical thinking are multidimensional in their craft of decision-making. Furthermore, our brain often tends to take a shortcut. That helps explain the surrounding phenomenon.
Hence, try to be aware of your cognitive biases. And understand how they influence your objective decisions and solutions. Becoming aware of our biases is what eventually makes critical thinking possible.
3. Question basic assumptions
9 out of 10 times, personally formulated assumptions hold us back from being unique. Not to mention, basic assumptions make us second guess ourselves. And sometimes, this even demotivates us from taking up a courageous path.
However, you need to believe that questioning general assumptions are where innovations happen. It is crucial to understand how to think critically. Critical thinking skills help us break away from the cycle of basic assumptions.
While thinking through a problem, some of us tend to take conventional approaches. Because we often don’t thoroughly practise the alternatives to the chosen method. Furthermore, human nature tends to stay and do all the thinking in their comfort zone. This tendency automatically limits our thinking process.
Questioning your assumptions could help you critically evaluate your belief. As a result, you will learn to take an approach that is more practical and appropriate.
4. Analyse with scrutiny
It is crucial that you analyse a specific situation. And scrutinising information before concluding is the first step to good analysis. Analytical skills are essential to learning how to think critically. You have to be able to distinguish between reliable and unreliable information in different contexts.
You can improve your analytical abilities by pushing yourself to think in new ways. Consider new ideas and try to make yourself acquainted with unfamiliar concepts. You can do so by taking on new experiences.
For instance, you might be studying in STEM. But you could read political or historical journals in your free time. Thus, you can transfer gained knowledge into a new context. And create an array of new possibilities.
It will broaden your view of the world and inspire you to opt for new routes in decision-making. The reason is that every discipline of study is integrated with each other. So, there’s no harm in taking inspiration. Moreover, studying a different field will significantly help improve your analytical abilities.
5. Interpret & infer
It is vital that you don’t misinterpret any data or information. Because it might further lead to a wrong inference. You have to interpret and synthesise your analysis with care. However, it can be tricky in the beginning. Hence, take as much time as you need to master this. It will improve your ability to decipher the meaning of relevant information.
Drawing an inference from provided facts can also be called inductive reasoning. Furthermore, do not mistake assumptions for inference. We might make a sound conclusion based on our beliefs. However, the two are entirely different practices. The inference is the art of concluding.
6. Develop problem-solving ability
Analyse and explore the possible remedies for a problem. And afterwards, you need to move on to executing the solution. Your problem-solving ability will typically get stronger. You just have to gain more knowledge of the subject.
Moreover, you can observe how others around you approach and solve an issue. Therefore, it would help if you can take note of their techniques. Furthermore, ask them questions about their process.
An effective problem solver needs to be foresighted. Because foresight is the key to anticipate adverse outcomes and roadblocks. Eventually, developing foresight can assist you in many ways. First, it helps in determining the possible outcomes of a situation. In addition, you can predict the reactions to your decisions at the workplace. Ultimately, it can help you make the right choice.
You can enrol in critical thinking and decision making course: part 2 to acquire the skills of critical thinking. Master the strategies and play your part in effective decision making.
7. Always remember yo think for yourself
You could get bogged down while researching and interpreting data. Sometimes, we might lose ourselves in the process of leading with logos in every aspect. Whether you are a student or an employee, it has definitely happened to all of us.
For instance, you might get too engrossed in other people’s work while writing an essay. In the process, you might lose track of your own thoughts. However, you need to reflect on the choices behind them. And to voice your own opinions using creativity is always a habit called for.
Consequently, it would help if you practised balanced thinking. Underthinking may lead to poor focus. But overthinking may lead to rigid and biased judgement. Moreover, without a balance between the two, you might face problems at the workplace.
8. Communicate your conclusions
Your interpersonal communication skills will come in handy. This especially applies while discussing the issue and solutions with peers and colleagues. You have to be able to communicate your conclusions and findings clearly to the relevant parties.
In addition, try improving on and developing your communication skills to know how to think critically. Communicating skills need to be one of your most robust pursuits, as it is helpful for all purposes.
Engage in difficult discussions within the context of critical thinking. It can improve how you communicate. For instance, choose a controversial topic. This could be a topic where you and other participants may hold differing views. It makes the conversation more engaging and diverse.
Moreover, maintaining good communication habits pays off. For instance, practice active listening skills and respect your peer’s opinions. Consequently, let them know your thoughts rationally and logically. This technique can prepare you to evaluate solutions. As a result, you can be more effective in the workplace.
Consequently, to deepen your skill of problem-solving, take Critical Thinking, Problem Solving and Decision Making: Part 1. The course will provide you with a thorough understanding of the benefits and barriers of critical thinking.
9. Practise self-awareness
Practising self-awareness means being more objective about your likes and dislikes. In other words, it’s the practice of examining your strengths and weaknesses with an unbiased lens. Tracking what your personal preferences are is another part of this practice. Consequently, it can help you identify your biases. And that will explain why you approach specific solutions the way you do.
You can develop a better sense of context in the workplace. All you need is to develop self-awareness. Furthermore, take mental notes of environmental stimuli. It can help to strengthen your analysis and inference skills. Finally, practise self-awareness. It can prohibit our biases from hampering our ability to be open-minded.
10. Evaluate existing evidence
You might have encountered a similar challenge as you are facing right now. Reflect and ask yourself, what have you learned from the experience. You can arrive at a more effective and applicable solution by sorting facts. And by sorting evidence from previous experiences, you will save yourself time and effort too.
Consequently, you can look at the evidence of other’s work. Studying any work that was done in a similar situation can fill you with inspiration. Starting from scratch is not necessary here. This especially applies if someone else had already laid the groundwork for solutions. However, evaluate the pieces of evidence critically to avoid reaching wrong conclusions.
Take the help of peer groups who’ve had the experience of working in the same discipline. Moreover, you can ask others about the foundations they built their conclusions on. A one to one breakout request is often the best way to evaluate and comprehend the subject at hand.
5 Reasons You Should Practice How To Think Critically At The Workplace
Rational and reflective thinking help us reach the best possible outcome. That is the objective of critical thinking. For example, you might have the best possible idea to resolve an issue, but you need to follow a systematic way to implement it. Critical thinking helps you with it and lets you reap the benefit.
5 reasons you should start practising how to think critically are as follows:
Critical thinking encourages teamwork. Moreover, every employee can have a chance for a positive impact. And thus, they can impact the future of their organisation using critical thinking skills. Critical thinking can connect people from diverse backgrounds in the workplace. They can work together to come up with solutions.
Brings new ideas
Critical thinking skills forces people to think outside the box. Managers and employees are compelled to come together to look beyond conventional approaches. In business management, one has to constantly look for new ideas to stay relevant. You can bring something new to the table when necessary. Critical thinking skills assist you with that.
You have to get started with asking a series of questions. And do it while critically thinking to resolve an issue. Through the process, you might end up uncovering hidden issues.
That is the power of critical thinking skills. You can attempt to resolve any issue by a consistent and conscious effort by knowing how to think critically.
You can develop multiple viable options for one particular issue. You just need the help of critical thinking. Critical thinking enables an organisation to offer a range of alternatives to clients. As a result, clients feel that they are in charge of decisions and instil faith in the company.
Moreover, the promotion of alternatives assists in the increase of workplace innovations.
Appropriate projection of emotions
Critical thinking skills prevent your emotions from getting the best of you. The rule of critical thinking is to never rush into any decision. And reaching a conclusion under emotional duress often leads to undesirable outcomes.
Critical thinking helps you to effectively use your emotional appeal. Consequently, it lets your reasoning and decision be free of any personal bias and feelings.
Obstacles to overcome to think critically
While we do not practice critical thinking every day, it is indeed a valuable skill. We need to master the art of critical thinking to get out of complex situations.
However, there are common reasoning fallacies and psychological obstacles. Such obstacles prevent us from learning how to think critically and practising likewise.
Some of the most common obstacles to practising critical thinking include the following:
Taking a heuristic approach
Taking a heuristic approach means using various shortcut methods for solving a problem. The heuristic approach is used to simplify the process of decision-making. Often, the produced solutions are far from optimal. However, many employees tend to take up the approach at a tight deadline.
Some heuristic approaches include educated guess, stereotyping, common sense and rule of thumb. The judgement is quick. And sometimes, it is efficient to adopt such mental shortcuts. However, it undermines the progress one tends to have by thinking critically.
We might respond differently to identical circumstances due to the framing effect. As such, it impedes our critical thinking ability. The reason is that we tend to frame our focus on certain aspects of a situation.
For instance, we tend to choose an option when it is described in positive and easy terms. However, when the same thing is described in a negative tone, it often repels us. And eventually, we tend to steer clear of it.
Giving in to framing bias often obstructs our critical thinking. This happens because we are wired to choose the path that requires the least resistance and effort. And undoing that is certainly no easy job.
Confirmation bias is one of the common fallacies. It impedes our ability to think critically. It is also known as “cherry-picking”. Confirmation bias means only taking notes of evidence that we favour. It also means that opinions that are similar to ours appeal to us first. Discarding the views that contradict our existing formulated opinion of a matter is another marker of this bias.
The tendency of creating an ‘echo chamber’ can be detrimental. An echo chamber is where you surround yourself with people who constantly agree with you.
Often, managers tend to seek advice from people sharing the same belief as they do. It can certainly damage the progress and success of an organisation. Thus, exploring and evaluating ideas contrary to one’s own is important. It is more important in managerial positions.
Emotions under poor management run the risk of clouding our judgement. It might even prevent us from making the right call. Oftentimes, views that run contrary to our own tend to make us respond to them with emotions.
Sensitivity to disagreements can elicit a response that defies logic and reason. Employees and managers who are unable to handle criticism can lead a company to the ground.
Hence, it is imperative to keep our emotions in check to know how to think critically. Try responding to disagreements with utmost professionalism. In addition, it would be best if you learn to take criticism with a grain of salt. Inappropriate responses can stagger both the personal and professional growth of a person.
What Is creative thinking?
Creative thinking is the process of generating unique and varied ideas. It provides an unconventional solution to solve a problem or tackle a challenge. To elaborate, you are focused on exploring ideas. And developing new theories through navigating creative ideas is the goal of creative thinking.
Creative thinking requires you to see the existing situations in new ways. And this also means applying new ideas in specific contexts. To elaborate, acting on your intuitions is a key part of this process. To discover new possibilities, construct theories and refine ideas are integral to creative thinking too. Altogether, the process of your creative endeavour can involve complex investigations and performance.
In many cases, people are able to analyse and interpret the work of others. However, when it comes to generating one’s own, many students and employees feel stuck. That is why integrating creative thinking in educational and professional aspects is important.
Critical thinking vs. creative thinking: differences
Many assume that critical thinking and creative thinking are similar. But both have their own set of distinctions. However, the link between creativity and critical thinking is intricate. You can even say critical thinking and creative thinking go hand in hand.
Your chances of success and productivity go up when you put critical thinking and creativity together. Creative thinking is concerned with bringing a fresh perspective. So, creative thinking helps you to come up with original ideas or solutions.
In contrast, critical thinking is the sequential process of rationalising. And it is the logical process of interpreting information.
Key differences between critical thinking and creative thinking are:
- Critical thinking assesses the validity of existing evidence. In contrast, creative thinking tries to create something new.
- Critical thinking is analytical, while creative thinking is about yielding results.
- Critical thinking focuses on probability, while creativity is about opening up new possibilities.
- Furthermore, critical thinking accomplishes tasks by analysing and accepting existing principles. In contrast, creative thinking disregards the existing principles. And it ventures to find new ones.
- Critical thinking is convergent, while creative thinking is divergent.
Critical thinking and creative thinking are not synonymous. But they are strongly linked. Both bring complementary dimensions to thinking and learning. Creativity is the lifeblood of critical thinking. In contrast, you have to include the element of creativity in the decision-making process to learn how to think critically.
Learning how to think critically can have a far-reaching impact on your personal and professional life. Developing your critical thinking skills is a workable process. You just have to practise the techniques outlined in the article.
By learning how to think critically, you can rise above irrelevant life issues. And this will lead you to focus your energy where necessary. The world today is extensively dependent on critical thinking to resolve complex ordeals. Critical thinking is thus indispensable to resolve the issues pertaining to the global community.
The 10 discussed techniques can be effective and efficient strategies for developing critical thinking. If you start employing these techniques regularly, they will turn into a habit. And you will get better at predicting. This will ultimately make you better at resolving problems related to self and work.
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