Critical thinking is the ability to think in a rigorous and disciplined way to make better judgements, decisions and create well thought through outcomes. In a world where people increasingly feel at the mercy of their feelings and emotions or worn down by other people forcing their opinions...
...Developing critical thinking is more important than ever - and it’s not a difficult as it sounds.
Here are some strategies to get you started:
Use more Why?
To be useful in critical thinking, ‘why’ should always be used with a curiosity mindset and without implying judgement. You are asking because you really want to understand, not because you want to the person to justify themselves or feel defensive. Asked with respect ‘why’ can help you to understand more about peoples’ motives and thought processes, this is turn will help you develop your own that work for you.
Spend more time exploring consequences
A key factor in critical thinking is the ability to identify a whole range of consequences for decisions and outcomes. It stops you getting stuck in your way of thinking and consequential thinking develops creative thinking, enabling you to think your way around obstacles more easily. Use questions like:
- What will happen if we do this / don’t do this?
- Will we lose anything good by taking this path?
- What else might happen as a result of this?
Listen carefully and don’t get hung up on your emotional reactions
It is important to listen to other people and consider their point of view to improve your critical thinking. This takes practice as a lot of people are not naturally good listeners, they are just waiting to say their bit. You learn a lot by listening carefully and asking questions for clarity. Non critical thinkers also get stuck if something they hear triggers an emotional reaction. This distracts you from the real issue as your emotions are over inflating one side of the argument. If this happens take a step back and don’t make a decision or take action until you’ve given yourself time to think it through.
Emotions are useful in decision making, they are part of the picture and are particularly important when the decision is a deeply personal one. Well rounded people can take account of their thinking and their feeling when processing so the skill is in being able to pay attention to both and sort through the information in a way that is useful.
Founder of Monkey Puzzle and an INLPTA NLP Master Trainer, Karen is also a UKCP registered Psychotherapist and author of the award winning book Real Leaders for the Real World. Her new book Time Mastery; Banish Time Management Forever is out now.