Our current education system often misses critical thinking as a focal point. Students are taught how to study and memorize, with a little emphasis on developing critical thinking that will provide a deeper understanding of the subject.
However, critical thinking is one of the necessary skills to help you navigate your life, both inside and outside of school. Defined as the ability to analyze facts to form a judgment, critical thinking can promote innovation and distinguish you from being a follower. It will help you ace your college paper writing, score high in standardized tests, and set you apart from the long list of candidates in a job interview.
With that said, it is never too late to train yourself to think critically. In this article, let’s look at how you can sharpen your critical thinking so you can find your way through any situation.
1. Pursue Your Curiosity
We have all been told to ask questions. However, many of us hesitate to raise their hands, thinking that the question might be silly, or not complex enough. The truth is, the better you are at critical thinking, the more basic and clear your questions are.
For instance, questions like the following would be a good start to analyze any problem you face in school or life.
• What other information do you need?
• How did you arrive at a conclusion?
• Is the information for or against your hypothesis?
• Is there any data that you are overlooking?
Such questions encourage you to look deeper into the problem and identify any issues that you might find at its core. You can also use the same strategy to help someone else solve their problems by asking similar questions. It shows that critical thinking can also be crucial from an interpersonal standpoint.
2. Listen Actively
It is nearly impossible to think and listen at the same time. For critical thinking, first, you should be able to listen to others and their arguments before you think of opposing them. One can’t absorb all the details while pondering something else in the back of their mind.
Active listening makes it possible to relate more to others and understand their perspective. It is vital to analyze the information later, to think of the matter from the person’s point of view.
3. Analyze the Information
A genuinely skilled critical thinker should be able to reflect first. It is best if you follow your train of thought. Think about where it originated, and how you arrived at the particular theory. If you want to be an excellent critical thinker, you have to identify any biases you have and acknowledge them.
By becoming more aware of your mental process, you can analyze information in an unbiased and impartial manner.
You also have to keep your emotions at the curb when it comes to critical thinking. Try to break down the information you have into simple pieces, and then take different arguments into account. Think about how each piece would affect others while analyzing, and try to approach it from an objective viewpoint.
4. Reverse Your Process
Instead of jumping to conclusions, take your time to consider the idea from all sides. One effective approach is to think in reverse, especially if you find yourself stuck during the process. As you can deduce, you are essentially flipping the direction of your thought. Instead of starting at the source, you begin your analysis from elsewhere.
Reverse thinking might not lead you to an immediate solution. But it will help you think of possibilities which you failed to consider before. It will also give you a different perspective and help you objectively look at the problem. You can look at it as rephrasing your question.
For instance, you want to solve traffic congestion in your neighborhood. Instead, try to think about how to make traffic congestion worse. You will immediately come up with a list of reasons causing such traffic, which will help you address the issue better. The same concept can be applied to reverse engineering your academic goals, and career objectives as well.
5. Be Knowledgeable About Influences
As stated above, we are often influenced by our own biases. However, it is not only our perspective that affects our thought process. You could be influenced by external factors as well. Factors such as experiences, cognitive biases, commitments, indifferences, personal beliefs, age, and socioeconomic status are significant factors that would persuade your thinking skills.
Aside from these, factors such as the color of the room, your physical state, and even other individuals’ presence could influence your decision making.
While you cannot entirely evade all these factors, what you can do is be mindful of them. Educate yourself about these, and try to train yourself to think objectively under all the circumstances. Expose yourself outside your comfort zone, read books by authors outside your culture, and gather information from more than one source. It will help you widen and adjust your perspective.
6. Work on Your Foresight
It is impossible to predict the future; however, one can try to predict the impact of their decisions and choices they make. Having this foresight is undoubtedly an asset regardless of what you are trying to accomplish. Whether you are trying to write a thesis, or manage a client at work, developing your foresight will help you improve your critical thinking.
Every decision you make has to be weighed carefully, considering how it would affect both you and others around you. At times, you have to balance between your emotions and analysis. That is where the true power of a skilled critical thinker lies. It requires you to take into account other perspectives and dissect opinions to arrive at an answer.
The ability to think critically can help you approach problems with an independent thought process. It will not only help you arrive at the best solution but an answer that will align best with the interests of everyone involved. It is a skill worth nurturing not only to excel in academics but for your life outside and after college.