Rapid technological change has created unique and complex problems to solve, which means that critical thinking is now an important skill to develop – but what are the main characteristics of a critical thinker? How to awaken your skills in this area?
Many people use the term “critical thinking” but seem to use it in different ways. Does this mean that you think negatively about everything, that you are overly critical? Or maybe it means you really like logic and puzzles?
Some may conclude that critical thinking is a skill primarily used in college to discuss different aspects of a problem through thoughtful and in-depth assessment. It may not be an area that we consider to be so relevant in our day to day life.
Yet the way we think and approach just about everything in our environment is somehow related to critical thinking. The difference between thinking and critical thinking is that even though we think every day, critical thinking is a deliberate mental exercise.
It is the ability to analyze and think objectively about the world around us, using logic and other skills, and perhaps a little wisdom as well.
According to The search for Pearsons in 2030, critical thinking is a top skill for future jobs and a great one to cultivate now, as critical thinking leads to complex problem solving, fluidity of ideas, active learning, and true collaboration.
The four key attributes of critical thinking
There are four main traits of critical thinkers – do they describe you? Otherwise try to cultivate them:
1. You are curious
You must want to know more about the things around you. This could be the main motivation that gets you to think more deeply about certain things.
Curiosity will lead you to “oh, why is that like this?” To “I want to know more”, that’s when you start to take it seriously.
2. You think well
It is not a question of speed but of thoroughness in the reflection. Critical thinking is not about how quickly you can process information or how accurate it is. It’s more about how much you’ve thought about a problem and how many aspects of the problem you’ve taken into account.
3. You apply rigor
The entire argument and all of the evidence must be consistent with each other. When we think critically, we have to accept the conclusion, even if it goes against what we originally believed.
Critical thinkers are curious and seek to find the what and the why behind everything.
It also means that we must treat the evidence equally and fairly, whether we agree or not.
4. You use common sense
It means that you are able to use your thinking and experience to differentiate between bad facts and good facts. Is it reasonable to say something?
Sometimes what looks strange in an argument doesn’t come from facts or knowledge, but rather simple old-fashioned common sense.
Are you not an innate critical thinker? Try these five ways to improve your critical thinking skills
In a world where we are overloaded with information, critical thinking is key. Here are 5 easy ways to make critical thinking part of your day-to-day:
1. Observe your responses to social media
Deliberately and with intention, watch a video or headline, then dig deeper to find out what’s underneath.
We tend to take it at face value. When using social media, how do you engage your critical thinking skills?
2. Challenge your assumptions
We make them in seconds. Critical thinkers are curious and seek to find the what and the why behind everything.
You can add thinking time to your day – even pockets of five minutes here and there can make a difference.
Become more forensic when faced with a situation and try to figure out where the assumptions are made. We probably do them so automatically in so many situations without thinking about it. Well now is the time to change that and ask why.
3. Take a different perspective
Get into other people’s heads as much as you can! This is where empathy comes in. Also involve others in decision making. If you are fortunate enough to work in a culturally diverse environment, find out how others may perceive an issue. You will discover valuable information.
4. Take the time to think
It will always seem like there isn’t enough time to think – make thinking and thinking a priority in any decision-making process.
You can add thinking time to your day – even pockets of five minutes here and there can make a difference, as a little more time allows that deep thinking process and better decision making to happen and to endure. become more of a default setting.
5. Be honest and open
Communicate clearly, don’t fabricate or pretend knowledge. Prepare properly for meetings and presentations so you don’t have to âfill in the gapsâ due to poor preparation.
Slow down a bit and don’t take too much. Take the time to do it right.
Interested in this topic? Read How accurate is our ability to self-assess? Are you as good as you think you are?