In simple real life, critical thinking is using your knowledge, experience, and thoughts to make the best possible decision. It also includes learning from your past experiences to improve yourself, avoid mistakes, and make better choices in the future. When you do not spend time thinking, you will find yourself pondering over things forever or making decisions on impulse. Here are effective ways to improve your critical thinking skills.
Effective ways to improve your critical thinking skills
1. Think of an improvement
Take any major area of your life you’re focusing on at the moment. You might want to skyrocket your career growth at work, improve the relationship with your partner, grow your business, or start a healthy lifestyle.
Take the time to think of an improvement that will take you one step closer to your goal. Do not focus only on massive game-changing ideas. Minor improvements tally up to exponential returns in the long run.
For example, if you’re thinking about how to earn a promotion at your job, do not only focus on executing a gigantic project. Think about how can you draft better emails and build better rapport. They might seem like tiny improvements, but when you implement many such changes day in and day out the results out shadow a single major idea.
2. Ask Basic Questions
It’s tempting to imagine that good critical thinkers ask erudite, convoluted questions when they’re trying to solve a problem. However, the truth is actually the opposite. The better you are at critical thinking, the more fundamental and clear your questions become. To enhance your questioning when problem-solving and thereby improve your critical thinking abilities, make sure you break questions down.
Suppose you encounter a new problem, in work or life, and aren’t sure what to do. Start by asking the following:
- What information about this problem do you already have?
- How do you know the above information?
- What is your goal and what are you trying to discover, prove, disprove, support, or criticize?
- What might you be overlooking?
These types of questions encourage you to get right to the heart of a problem, interrogating it for simple solutions before assuming complexity.
3. Active listening to improve your critical thinking skills
Thinking and listening are nearly impossible to do at the same time. To become a critical thinker, you need to be able to listen to others’ ideas, arguments, and criticisms without thinking of your response or reaction while they are speaking. You can’t properly absorb the information someone is trying to convey to you if you don’t take the time to truly listen.
Listening allows us to feel empathy. We hear someone else’s story, struggles, ideas, successes, and passions, and how they reached them. When we hear their perspective, we can take that information and analyze it. When we use active listening skills, we can fully understand what someone is trying to tell us because that conversation continues until all parties can reiterate what the other is trying to say.
4. Analyzing information.
Analyzing information is paramount for critical thinking. No one thinks critically at all times. Sometimes our joy, anger, sadness, or other emotions are too great, and other times we struggle to focus on the central issue at hand.
To reach success, we need to analyze the information before us, whether it is information in our mind or being shared by others. We can break it down by assessing what is being said, and ensuring that we clearly understand what it is that needs to happen. Then we can dissect and appraise all arguments, including our own, and think about how the decisions would impact others, as well as the bottom line. When we can step back and analyze an argument, it allows us to approach it from an objective viewpoint.
5. Think in reverse to improve your critical thinking skills
Thinking in reverse is another fascinating and effective technique, especially when you’re stuck trying to puzzle through a difficult problem.
The basic idea is that you flip what you think you know on its head. So, if you think it’s pretty obvious that A causes B, ask yourself “But what if B caused A?”. This is the structure of the famous case of the chicken and the egg.
You initially think you’re sure that the chicken is the one who comes first because the egg needs to be laid by the chicken. However, once you consider that the chicken itself needed to originate somewhere, it’s no longer so clear.
Thinking in reverse won’t always get you an immediate solution to a problem. However, it jolts you out of perceiving the problem in the same old way, which is often all you need to get onto the road to success.
6. Develop Foresight
While one of us is likely to become psychic anytime soon, we can get a lot better at predicting the impact of the choices we make. Consider that good foresight is an asset no matter what you’re trying to achieve. Whether you’re at a job interview, trying to market a business, or attempting to date, you’ll be better able to make the right decisions if you can already see the consequences further down the line.
How do you develop your capacity for foresight, thereby improving your critical thinking more broadly? Make sure you take the time to look at all angles of a potential decision.
To take the example of looking for a place to situate your new business, don’t just go with your gut. Ask yourself questions like the following: what impression does this location give to visitors? How many competitors are there in the area? Will it be easy for employees to get here?
Making a pro and con list is another excellent way to boost your foresight, making you much better at predicting outcomes. And the more you do this, the less work you need to put into your attempted predictions each time.