How to Become a Critical Thinker (With Tips and Importance)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 4, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Critical thinking is the active process of analyzing, evaluating, and applying information to arrive at the most educated and rational solution to a problem or question. Having strong critical thinking skills may help a person make informed decisions, resulting in positive solutions. These abilities can help you excel in your role, improve your career outlook, or obtain a job interview. In this article, we define what critical thinking is, its characteristics, tips on using these abilities, and how you can improve your own critical thinking skills.

Why is being a critical thinker important?

Being a strong critical thinker is essential to creating better and more informed solutions in the workplace. Using information gathered through observation, experience, and action can help you decide based on sound evidence. You might become an attractive candidate for several employers because they're always looking for employees with efficient and effective analytical abilities. Excellent critical thinking skills may help you:

  • Make informed decisions and evaluate an argument's validity and its potential impact

  • Develop your confidence and personal ethics by giving you the tools to make educated decisions

  • Create and improve your own educated opinions on various topics

  • Engage on a more intellectual level with your subordinates and colleagues and improve your workplace relationships

  • Communicate with your supervisor on a deeper and more logical level

  • Evaluate your work so you can improve your own quality, efficiency, and productivity

  • Develop your overall reading and conversation comprehension skills

Related: Key Differences: Analytical Thinking vs. Critical Thinking

Characteristics of strong critical thinkers

Colleagues and subordinates with strong critical thinking skills can exhibit a wide range of favourable characteristics you can recognize at your workplace. Usually, these individuals are inquisitive and curious and like to know and understand a wide variety of processes and issues in the workplace. They pay attention to situations where a rational analysis is crucial and can anticipate outcomes and consequences with ease.

They're usually more flexible and open-minded and have an ability to understand the views of others. They're likely fair in their judgements and assessments and are good at recognizing their own biases. These people usually possess a willingness to reconsider when they might be wrong about a situation and can look at it from alternate sides to reassess their position.

6 tips on using your critical thinking skills

By assessing the problem and reviewing each of the tips listed below, you can examine an issue from all sides. As you're developing your critical thinking skills, you may review these tips every time you face an issue. As you grow more comfortable with this approach, you may integrate it into your analysis process. You can benefit from the critical thinking tips listed below to use effectively your skills:

1. Identify the problem or question

The first task in critical thinking is to identify the problem or situation that you want to examine. It might be worth seeking the opinions of multiple people, as sometimes others can have different viewpoints on what actually needs solving. Once you've defined the problem, describe it by writing it down, so everyone is clear on the issue as you proceed through the following steps.

Related: 6 Critical Thinking Skills and Why They Are Important at Work

2. Gather and organize information

You can gather information and resources from several sources, such as colleagues, experts, books, websites, magazines, and journals. Having different sources of information can give you the broadest and most holistic view of the problem or question. You can avoid creating a bias that supports your initial view of the problem.

3. Analyze the data and sources

Once you gather your information, evaluate it for its credibility and reliability. You can only arrive at your best solution if the data you're using is relevant and from a credible source. When you're analyzing the data, look for biases in how you assess it. Soliciting opinions from multiple people might help ease this issue.

Related: 7 Steps to Improve Your Creative Thinking Skills

4. Determine the significance of the data

Not all data sources are equally relevant to the problem or question you're trying to answer. Establish which information is the most important and pertinent and the most accepted sources. You may have enough information to make an educated decision, otherwise, you can return to the second step and repeat the process. If a second assessment reveals you still don't have enough data, explore other options for data collection or decide if you can proceed with the information available. If you have enough data, move to the next step.

5. Make a decision

Once you've determined you have enough information to proceed, it's time to make a decision. It's beneficial to base your judgment on the evidence you analyzed and considered in the previous step. Consider whether your decision directly answers the question or problem you were trying to solve. As with the previous steps, you may solicit feedback from everyone on your team to ensure all parties are happy and agree with the resolution. Making a decision based on quantitative information is essential to address technical problems.

6. Communication your conclusion

Once the decision is final, you can then outline your findings and why you arrived at that outcome. You may include the specific pieces of evidence, research, or information that lead you to this result. You might also include any information that doesn't support your conclusion and explain why you chose an alternative path. Finally, present your verdict to the upper management and stakeholders.

Related: 6 Critical Thinking Skills and Why They Are Important at Work

How to become a critical thinker in 6 steps

Critical thinking is a skill that may require practice, time, and focus, but there are ways to improve your critical thinking skills. Doing so can make you a stronger employee and improve your chances of success in your role. It may also help you highlight your performance and results at work when you're interviewing for a new job. Below is a list of ways you can improve your critical thinking skills:

1. Become more self-aware

Self-awareness relates to your thought processes, values, morals, ethics, and the beliefs you hold. Consider your strongest beliefs and opinions and what you consider important to you as an individual, such as honesty or integrity. Think about your values and morals and how they relate to those around you. You can also consider whether you have higher or lower moral and ethical standards. Knowing this about yourself can help reveal your personal biases, your strengths and weaknesses, and help you understand why you approach situations the way you do.

2. Understand your mind's process

This relates to the manner in which you receive and process information. Think about your reaction when you learn something new and consider how you store that in your mind. You can evaluate how you accept that information, what you do with it, and how you interpret it. Knowing this about yourself can help you understand if you make quick judgements without giving all sides due consideration or if you naturally consider all sides of a problem. Learning about your mental process can help you learn to think more objectively.

3. Develop better foresight

You can practise thinking about situations and the likely outcomes. You can do this by reflecting on a past project you've encountered and analyzing the results if you'd considered different data or information. By evaluating the likely positive and negative conclusions, you can strengthen your ability to predict outcomes and develop stronger foresight to face new situations.

Related: Why Critical Thinking Is Important in the Workplace

4. Become a better listener

Collaboration is important when making decisions that affect everyone, and people with strong critical thinking skills usually consider the viewpoints of colleagues and supervisors. Active listening is one of the key talents of strong creative thinkers. Becoming a better listener can help improve your critical thinking skills by ensuring you're not only hearing but also absorbing the thoughts and opinions of others. This can help you make more sound decisions as you can absorb different information that comes from people with different backgrounds, experiences, and education.

5. Ask questions

People with strong critical thinking skills usually ask several questions to understand a problem. You can start with the facts you know and ask questions to confirm if those beliefs are true. Rephrasing a question in different ways can help uncover deeper answers that give you stronger insights into the problem. You can use open-ended and thoughtful questions to get more information and details about the issue. Ask yourself if the answers you receive are facts, opinions, or ideas. This can help you assign value to the answers and eliminate biases.

6. Draw on experiences

Consider whether this is a problem you've encountered before and whether you can draw on that previous experience. Think about what you learned from that example and how you can apply it to this situation. When sorting through your data and research, you can think about how that experience relates to the current data in question. Drawing on another experience can sometimes help you find a more effective solution.

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