You will often hear the term “critical thinking” without an appropriate explanation. For example, you may remember it as something that you rated when you were in school, or as something that you were told that some people are better at it. The problem is not only that logic and critical thinking are often not described. They also often sound dry, boring, or not very practical.
In truth, critical thinking skills are acquired and honed over time, helping you make good decisions, process information more effectively, and Express your thoughts more clearly. By honing your thinking skills, you give yourself a boost in both your personal and professional life.
So what is critical thinking? And how can you become a better critical thinker starting today? This simple guide will provide you with an excellent starting point, looking at the definition of critical thinking and working with five methods to improve it.
What is critical thinking?
This is a thorough analysis, processing and understanding of information. Although it is often taught as part of a philosophy course (and its roots are in the works of Plato and Aristotle), critical thinking skills can be useful for solving any problem, subject area, question, or concept.
This includes carefully monitoring your own thoughts. Attention to where they come from and how they follow each other. And this requires a certain degree of open-mindedness.
In particular, good critical thinkers try to be neutral about their own thoughts by detecting biases and then correcting them.
Moreover, recent research clearly shows that critical thinking provides significant benefits for all areas of thinking. For example, a person with critical thinking can do the following:
- Ask relevant, clear questions with precise and limited scope.
- Methodically collect information and accurately evaluate it.
- Adhere to reasonable conclusions and evaluate them in relation to counterarguments.
- Show a constant understanding of the boundaries of your competence
- Communicate with others productively and impartially, getting results even when solving complex problems.
As you can see from the above, critical thinking exercises are not only good for your career. They also help improve relationships, allowing you to quickly overcome conflicts and become aware of yourself.
As noted above, you are not just born with innate critical thinking skills. Yes, they are easier to acquire for some people than for others, but in principle they can be cultivated in anyone. This means that if you want to be a good critical thinker, you must remember that critical thinking can be developed by constant practice. Imagine what it’s like to be physically fit! There are certain muscles that you need to build up over time.
The following five exercises will help you in the process of critical thinking. They are all about making simple but powerful changes to your cognition and tracking them over time.
In addition to using these methods, remember that any new training is equally useful for critical thinking. Every time you read about something new, read a complex book, you become a smarter thinker.
1. Ask basic questions
It’s tempting to imagine that good critical thinkers ask erudite, confusing questions when trying to solve a problem. However, the reality is actually the opposite. The better you practice critical thinking, the more fundamental and clear your questions become. To improve your critical thinking skills, be sure to ask questions.
Let’s say you have a new problem at work or in life and don’t know what to do.
Start with questions:
- What information do you already have about this issue?
- How do you know the above information?
- What is your goal and what are you trying to discover, prove, disprove, support, or criticize?
- What can you miss?
These types of questions encourage you to understand the essence of the problem, studying it for simple solutions before making complex ones.
If this helps, try writing down the answers to the above four questions when you run into a problem, to help yourself remember your process as you go through it. You can use the same strategy to try to convince someone else.
This shows once again how important critical thinking is in terms of interpersonal relationships, not just in terms of cognitive abilities.
2. Be aware of your mental process
People who consider themselves to be good critical thinkers often turn their analytical abilities outward by arrogantly criticizing other people. However, being a truly experienced thinker requires much more thought.
In particular, you should monitor your mental process: where it started, what it looks like, and where it goes. Our brains are incredibly impressive and can parse information at an incredible speed, but this lightning-fast work can encourage us to ignore important factors.
Our brains use heuristics, like cognitive contractions, to quickly draw conclusions about what is happening around us. In many cases, these heuristics provide reliable results and help us develop in the world. In other cases, they take the form of unreliable biases that lead us down the wrong path.
No matter how smart and thoughtful you are, if you want to be a good critical thinker, you must recognize that you have such biases, and you need to learn to keep track of them.
Get into the habit of asking yourself what you assume and why, and checking things like useless stereotypes.
Recognizing your own biases is the first step to rewriting these parts of your thinking. Although even the best critical thinker will never be completely impartial.
3. Set up your perspective
As noted above, being more attentive to your own biases is a great help to develop critical thinking. However, this is only the first step in gradually changing the Outlook.
One useful thing you can do is read the literature about biases and how they work. For example, in the field of” resume Research”, researchers show how identical resumes can get different ratings depending on whether the name placed at the top sounds like a male or female, foreign or familiar, and so on.
Meanwhile, there are many different interesting papers on how situational factors affect our seemingly basic character traits. For example, we make different decisions depending on things like hunger, the color of the room, the need to climb the stairs, and so on.
The very fact of reading about these biases and heuristics can help correct your point of view. Another thing you can do is consciously open your mind to other ways of thinking.
Instead of sticking to your favorite news sources, read a little more widely. Select books by authors outside your culture. Deliberately perform empathy exercises that put you in the shoes of a stranger. All these actions make you a better thinker.
4. Think backwards
Thinking backwards is another fascinating and effective technique, especially when you are stuck trying to solve a difficult problem.
The basic idea is that you turn what you think you know upside down. So if you think A causes B, ask yourself: “What if B caused A?” This is the structure of the famous chicken and egg case.
At first, you think you are sure that the chicken came before the egg, because the chicken has to lay an egg. However, if you consider that the chicken itself must have appeared from somewhere, this is not so obvious.
Thinking in the opposite direction will not always give you an immediate solution to the problem. However, it shocks you from perceiving the problem in the same old way. Sometimes that’s all you need to get on the road to success. In addition, changing the intended direction of causation is a particularly useful ploy in a relationship that does not encourage guilt.
For example, you may have thought that you acted this way because of the way your partner spoke, but what if your partner thinks that they spoke differently because of the way you behaved?
5. Develop foresight
Good foresight is an advantage no matter what you are trying to achieve. Whether you are going through a job interview, trying to promote a business, or going on a date, you will be able to make the right decisions if you already see the consequences in the future.
How do you develop your ability to anticipate, thereby improving your critical thinking in a broader sense? Make sure you take the time to look at all the angles of a potential solution.
For example, if you are looking for a place to start your business, ask yourself questions like the following:
- What impression does this place make on visitors?
- How many competitors are there in this area?
- Will it be easy for employees to get here?
Making a list of pros and cons is another great way to increase your foresight, making you much better at predicting results. And the more you do this, the less work you need to put into your attempts at foresight each time.