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Critical Thinking: Beyond the Surface

Updated on November 2, 2013

Don't get stuck in thinking ruts. Think critically!

What is critical thinking?

Most people don't think about critical thinking, we just do it. It is a part of our daily life. Critical thinking helps us make sound decisions, decipher when someone is lying to us, walk away from bad deals, intuitively know how to spot a good deal, and help us sound intelligent in conversation with others.

People who don't use critical thinking are often referred to as naive, sheltered, inexperienced, gullible, or of low intelligence. This does not have to be true, but not exercising critical thinking skills in your daily life can make you appear this way. Fortunately, critical thinking is something that can be developed and anyone's skills can be sharpened.

4 Easy Steps to Sharpen Your Critical Thinking

So, how does critical thinking help "intelligent" people get that way? There are a few steps in the process.

1. Evaluate all new information.

Is this new information important? Is it urgent? Does the information come from a reliable source? How will accepting and implementing this new information change what I already know and believe? Did I solicit this information or is someone soliciting me, and what are their intentions?

Don't assume that everyone has your best interest in mind. Most often if the information wasn't solicited by you, it is a scam, or something you don't need. Professional marketers are paid to figure out how to get your attention so you will buy their products. Don't feel obligated to buy just because you got the information. Make them tell you the "fine print" and make sure you are satisfied that you fully understand the pros and con's.

2. Research when necessary.

No one can make an informed decision without being informed. If you have to act, make sure you know your options. Researching your options can often find you an even better deal than the one that made you start researching in the first place. If you are researching a topic of interest for conversation purposes, go to a credible source, like a dictionary, a newspaper, an online encyclopedia, or another authority's website. Don't believe everything you read on the Internet. Most of it isn't true, or is faulty in some way.

3. Ask questions.

Don't assume that other people are always right, or that they have given you factual information. What if they are wrong? On the flip side, don't assume that you are always correct either. Open your mind to hear a new idea or opinion long enough to at least consider the new position. You don't have to change your mind, but hearing another point of view will broaden you knowledge by encouraging discussion. Usually, a person who is an "authority" on a subject will be able to back up their opinion by telling you the source of their information. If they are offended by a simple question or two, then what are they trying to hide?

4. Come to your own conclusions.

Don't just repeat information you've heard. Other critical thinkers will challenge you on it, and then you will be left looking silly when you can't back it up with a credible source, or some other factual information to add to the conversation. Be sure of what you know, and be willing to explain it to others. This not only gives you credibility on the subject, but will also give you confidence in your newly acquired "intelligence".

Critical conclusion

As you can see, critical thinking is a process. There are people to whom this process comes naturally, and they may seem to do it effortlessly. For others it may take a little practice, but you'll get the hang of it. Remember, the more you think for yourself, the better decisions you will make, and the more satisfied you will be with the outcomes.

Food for thought. What decision did you make in the last month that you wished you had thought more about, researched, or asked more questions before going forward? If you think about it honestly, I am sure you will find that a little more thinking may have provided an even better opportunity or outcome.

As you can see, there is always room for critical thinking.


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      alloporus 6 years ago

      Nice hub with useful tips. The tag for my blog is "ideas for healthy thinking" so I get what you mean by needing to upskill on our abilities to think straight.

      New literature from the cognitive scientists says that our brain is naturally lazy and this might explain why we prefer the easy thinking to the critical.

      Look forward to more of your thoughts.