There are a lot of definitions for critical thinking. In easy words, people who think critically are rational, reasonable, and empathetic. If you want to be a critical thinker, it would be hard unless you know what critical thinking is for you. In my opinion, critical thinking is the analysis of a situation, facts, pieces of evidence, or information related to it. Ideally, critical thinking gives you a perception and sense of judgement that is not influenced by your own or someone else’s feelings, opinions or prejudice. It is solely based on factual information.
Critical thinking skills allow you to make logical and informed decisions to the best of your ability. Once you have developed critical thinking skills, you will no longer believe in any baseless opinion. Your actions and opinions become more logical, rational, unbiased, and prudent when they are taken after thinking critically. We know that critical thinking is very important for a person to survive in today’s time. Critical thinking skills can help you acquire other skills easily and make more informed decisions in life. These decisions surely uplift the standard bar. So, let us learn how to develop and improve our critical thinking skills:
Identify the Challenges
The first step to improve your critical thinking skills is to identify the problem along with the factors that may be leading it. Once you get a clear picture of the scenario including people, things or other factors, then you can start to look for possible solutions. There are many ways to figure out solutions. Each stage has its style, so when you face a new challenge, start asking yourself these three questions:
Who is doing this?
What appears to be the reason for this?
What will be the results?
The picture of the scenario will be clear when you ask these questions to yourself. These questions will then make you have a look at the situation from a different point of view.
The first question will clear the picture about who is responsible for this action. The second question will let you know the core reason behind the current situation. The third question can help you understand the consequences of the actions and make the situation even better for tomorrow. The third question will also help us in making informed decisions for upcoming challenges and opportunities.
The number of questions can increase by the time you master this art. Make sure none of these three questions is missed at all. Another thing to keep in mind is that you need to use this approach while being unbiased and logical.
Dive Deep and Compare
The second step is diving deep into the situation independently and comparing the possible outcomes. When we compare different solutions about an issue, doing self-research is the best option. Try not to take other people’s opinions unless they are more experienced than you are. Some information may be missing when people present their opinion about an issue. With proper questioning, you can reach the source of the issue or find the information related to it.
It is best to evaluate every situation independently without being influenced by anyone. Whenever a piece of information is presented to you, keep an eye to figure out the source of that information. Sourceless claims are not worth attention. Often, baseless information is falsified for manipulated results. If a person shares a piece of information and does not share the source of it or does not give a clear answer, then you should consider it as a red flag. The red flag is a category where you can not completely trust that the information is true and relevant.
Also, it is important to know that all the sources where the information comes from are valid. Make a mindmap to picture the situation with logical opinions and think about it without being biased.
Figure Out The Unfairness
Identifying prejudice and unfairness is one of the most difficult skills in the critical thinking process. We should start to think like a judge when we sense prejudice or bias in the information provided. We can not take the information out, but we should keep in mind that the information provided might be faulty or not completely true.
The other tough thing is to keep our prejudice or personal feelings away while making a decision. This is when the situation of a good wolf and bad wolf arises, and an argument starts within our minds. This argument is not bad. You will be surprised to know that a debate with yourself is essential to see things from a different point of view. Challenge yourself to find out if the outcomes are credible or influenced by your biased opinions or not. Ask yourself these three questions:
Who benefits from the outcome?
Have you received accurate information?
Are there any irrelevant things, actions or words connected to the information?
The first question will clear who all will benefit from the current situation. The second question will help you understand if there is any misinformation or any objective behind the information which you have received. The third question will help you get rid of the information which is no longer needed. This information could be about any falsified actions or opinions. We should make decisions without other people’s influence on our perception.
Consider Relevant Information
Learn to figure out which information is worth your consideration and which is not. People communicating with you can put the information in such a way as it would seem to be important for you. Some people will try to take you off the case with irrelevant information. Such false information can have adverse effects on your critical thinking skills.
It is best to set a clear direction for required information so that irrelevant information can be avoided. If you have a clear direction, you will conclude easily. You need to think actively, keep the relevant information and disregard the irrelevant information. This step is one of the toughest and can not be taught because it comes with practice and experience. Different people have different approaches to deal with various issues. I would say that you will learn this over time.
Learn to Analyse a Situation
Thinking critically is good for everyone. It is specifically good for people who want to have a successful career. Your ability to effectively analyse the situation will be useful for you for your entire life. Sudoku, brainteasers, and other quizzes can help you develop healthy critical thinking skills. Group discussions are a great medium for developing critical thinking skills. When you talk to people in a group, you come to know about different perspectives and ways of approaching a conclusion.
Earlier, we talked about a debate within ourselves which is a difficult guide to practice. If you are not sure about how to have a healthy debate, I would suggest starting a group discussion with your colleagues or relatives. You will not only learn how people convey the information but also learn how to defend some specific points. You will soon be able to figure out falsified information as you start to understand when a person becomes defensive. Thus, try to observe the situations as mentioned and start discussing them with your group.
Evaluation of Your Skills
As soon as you start following these steps and master them, you will see changes in your decision-making abilities. You can measure and rate your decision making in a progressive way. There are different stages that you can aim to achieve over time.
In the first stage, you will be able to understand the issue or situation clearly without any room for error or misunderstanding.
In the second stage, you will start to understand the final results, objectives, or outcomes of the actions or process.
In the third stage, a critical thinker gathers as much information as possible from multiple sources to be able to make an informed judgment.
In the fourth stage, a critical thinking skills seeker starts focusing on multiple points of views on the issue or situation to form a complete picture to find a solution.
The fifth stage takes time to be achieved. In this stage, the person should be able to separate facts from assumptions with logic and probing.
Though the fifth stage was enough for a person to analyze day-to-day situations and make informed decisions, we can still go further. In the sixth stage, a critical thinker starts to learn from his/her past for any useful lessons to improve his/her critical thinking skills.
Last, but a part of the never-ending stages list. By this time you will be able to make the most logical decisions based on the conclusion of the received information.
You may have noticed that a better decision-maker becomes more successful in his life. Critical thinking is a kind of skill that everyone needs to learn and practice for a better life.
I hope after reading this blog, you’ll be able to improve or develop your critical thinking skills easily.