According to a study from the University of Cambridge, having a critical mind would improve one’s life. It would help make more relevant decisions and solve problems in a more creative, autonomous, and efficient way.
Nevertheless, this skill (because it is a skill) is not innate, and it is trained and learned, as we will see. Here is the list of 5 tips for developing your critical thinking skills with ease made by Dustin Bratten from PaperHelp!
What is critical thinking?
First of all, critical thinking is the combination of a “mind” and a “critical” attitude.
It is the combination of a state of mind/intellectual posture with a set of good practices/attitudes that allow to nourish and reinforce it.
The objective of having a critical mind is not to think more but to think better. To be able to think rationally and autonomously.
In concrete terms, it is a matter of adopting a “questioning” way of thinking so as not to accept as true or real any statement or information without having first examined it. This can be done through reason and thorough documentation on logical demonstration.
Moreover, this allows one to avoid any simplistic amalgam, hasty generalization, received idea, or certainty that would be the fruit of beliefs or statements without proof.
Finally, if we want to be totally precise, we must not confuse “critical spirit” and “critical thinking,” which are not synonymous.
Critical thinking includes critical spirit as an attitude or, more precisely, as a set of attitudes that push the individual to have a tendency to be critical.
Finally, in concrete terms, critical thinking can be useful at work in 2 situations:
- To challenge yourself and find alternative solutions to a problem (e.g., a customer not satisfied with one of your proposals or a crisis).
- To learn from a failure, analyze it, learn from your mistakes and “grow.”
5 tips for developing your critical thinking skills
Critical thinking requires discipline but also time and attention. To acquire and maintain this skill, there are several best practices you can follow:
1. Understand how you operate:
All human judgment is subjective. So, before analyzing what surrounds you, start by taking the time to understand how you function.
Beware of yourself! How do you reason? What are your biases? How might these affect your judgment?
Indeed, try to pay attention to your “cognitive distortions” (things that can make you see the world in a biased way) that would unconsciously limit your critical thinking. For example, if you have a tendency to be negative (negative attitude, refusal), to over-generalize too quickly, etc.
The objective: by understanding how you function and being critical of yourself, you will be better able to take it into account. To detect possible thinking biases and broaden your way of thinking.
2. Sharpen your ability to question things
Learn not to accept information as true until you have studied it yourself, even though this may take time and energy.
To begin with, don’t be too definitive in your thinking. Question all your assumptions, which are the basis of critical thinking. Many of them can fall apart with a little more analysis. For example: why do we think we are failing when we haven’t even tried yet?
Also, avoid definitive terms like “never” and only use them when you are certain of what you are saying.
Finally, listen to your instincts and investigate the information you may have doubts about. If you are not completely satisfied with the explanation you have gathered, ask the person you are talking to expand on their answer. On the other hand, if a fact seems correct, read more about it or experience it yourself.
The objective: by developing the “art of doubt,” you will be able to judge more quickly by listening to your instincts if a piece of information deserves to be analyzed in more depth or not.
3. Don’t limit yourself to one option:
We are rarely limited to one choice or option. By definition, all information that comes to us is uncertain because it is not yet verified.
Also, when faced with a problem, do not neglect any hypothesis; determine all the solutions that are within your reach but try to scale them according to their degree of probability.
Then check them against the information you manage to glean. This will allow you to deal more skillfully with the reflections of daily life.
The objective: by being skeptical by nature, you will be able to identify all possible solutions to a problem and not overlook any of them.
4. Learn to reason
When facing a difficult or complex situation, adopt a constructive, focused, and appropriate attitude. Be methodical and adopt more precisely “hypothetical-deductive” reasoning, which will ensure that you do not make an ill-considered judgment.
Concretely, starting from your initial belief, formulate your hypothesis. Then identify and observe, based on relevant knowledge and constraints, the causal and verifiable explanations that result from it. This will allow you to confirm or possibly re-evaluate your initial hypothesis.
The objective: by relying on this rigorous method, you will no longer deduce conclusions based on hypotheses but rather on real observations and reflections. To learn to think independently and critically.
5. Be open to others!
No idea or opinion is right or wrong. To develop your critical thinking skills, put yourself in other people’s shoes or ask for their opinion.
This will allow you to obtain and consider a new point of view that could change or put your opinion into perspective. And that you would not have thought of at first.
In addition, surround yourself with experts, competent people in a field to develop your critical mind on the subject.
The objective: by opening yourself up to a range of opinions and ways of thinking, you will be better able to develop your critical mind.
In conclusion, critical thinking is important at work. But also in your personal life. This skill should be worked on, ideally from childhood, to learn from the start to the reason for yourself, form your own opinion, fight against prejudice or any form of intolerance, etc.
And this is all the more important in this period marked by an infobesity, where we are overloaded with information, especially “Fake News” (or false information). According to researchers from MIT (Massachusetts Institute Of Technology), fake news would have 70% more chances to be relayed than verified news. And it would circulate on average 6 times faster!