How to Improve Critical Thinking Skills: 7 Easy Steps
Critical skills are a great instrument, which every person needs not only at high school or college but throughout life. Being able to think critically helps you to improve debate skills, acquire lots of new knowledge, skills and experience. That is why the key question should be as follows: how should we maintain our skills sharp enough to face all the problems on our way? How to improve such thinking throughout the years?
Luckily, critical thinking doesn’t take too much time and planning, doesn’t require equipment or famous teachers. Everything you need is already in your head: an open mind and 7 easy strategies, which are listed in this article. With their help you will integrate such skills into your daily life, being able to use them without even thinking!
Don’t waste time
Every person has that moment in life, when it seems like the opportunity is lost and the time is not coming back. That is why it is very important to be ‘here and now’, practicing complete presence and reflecting on the things we have reached throughout the day.
One of the ways to learn critical thinking is to take your time and think about the things, which happened during the day and how you feel about those lessons. Don’t just switch TV channels trying to find something to watch: devote this hour or two to yourself and your brain. Here are the questions you can ask yourself:
- When happened my best and worst thinking this day?
- How did I solve it?
- How did the day go?
- Did I welcome negative thoughts, which frustrated and upset me?
- If I got a chance to repeat this day, would I do anything differently? Actually, it is one of the key questions for a critical thinker;
- What did I do to be one step closer to my goals?
- Did I act according to my values?
- If I devote every day to the same things during 10 years, would I eventually achieve something?
Depending on how much time and motivation you have, you can answer a single question or all of them. You can either answer them in your head or write down in a journal. Developing critical thinking skills is an everyday practice and very soon you will be able to detect and change all the patterns you had in your brain.
Understand the motive
Remember calls from your cellular provider, offering to change your old phone plan to a cheaper and a better one? I regularly get those calls and wonder why do they want to make lives of their users better, losing profits at the same time?
Asking such questions is a direct way to critical thinking skill improvement. They help to understand motives of others, which is actually one of the most important parts of thinking in a critical way. Remember, every person has a certain motive and to read messages in a proper way, you need to understand where the data is coming from.
In such a way, you will be able to evaluate it properly and decide how to act.
Learn something every day
Learning new skills and information every day should become a habit of yours, making it a part of your life journey. It is also a great way to mastering critical thinking steps and to becoming a guru in understanding how your brain operates.
Of course, it is not about learning five foreign languages or getting a PhD. It just means that you need to learn something completely new. Are there questions, which you wanted to research? Then don’t wait any longer and find the answers. Never stop before you find a necessary answer, even if it is too simple and trivial. How to think critically is not a rocket science – it is about making small steps to becoming a better version of yourself.
With the help of this simple step you will fulfill a basic need in intellectual exercises and will develop curiosity. If you want to take your learning to a much higher level, please do so! Learn Latin, play violin and enter a medical college even if you are 60 years old! It will not only help you to learn new skills but also will build new connections in your brain, which contribute to its health and better functioning.
Improve critical thinking not depending how old you are and what you are dreaming of. Remember:
- John Glenn conquered space at 72;
- Umberto Eco was 48, when he wrote The Name of the Rose;
- Priscilla Sitienei, Kenyan midwife, learned how to read and write, when she was 90.
Since the appearance of humanity, our minds have formed questions literally about everything. We still continue to challenge our children and ourselves to explore the world and find out pieces of new information. Questions are really good and can give you all the necessary details on how to be a critical thinker.
If you are able to ask important questions, they will lead you to constructive answers, which in turn help in promoting constant learning. With the help of such questions we train our brain, learn different points of view and stop taking everything for granted.
Think of your recent dialogue with a friend and the story he has shared with you. A person, who possesses or wants to develop good critical thinking skills, will ask oneself the following questions:
- Who told the story?
- What did he say?
- Where did he say it?
- When did he say it?
- Why was the story told?
- What emotions the narrator had?
Become an active listener
Many students ask what’s critical thinking and how it can be applied in real life or in writing a paper. Unfortunately, they are not always ready to get new information and are only waiting their turn to talk. If you look at the class, question yourself how many students are genuinely listening? It is impossible to improve your cognitive function without becoming an active listener.
Recent research proved that after a 10-minute presentation the audience understands and retains only half of the said material. In 48 hours only 25% of information is remembered. Listening is quite a difficult process, because you need to make an effort to hear and understand the words, trying to get the general meaning and message. So if you are willing to know how to become a critical thinker, being a good listener is a must.
Tips on how to listen properly
Luckily, this skill is achievable and below we will share the most valuable tips on becoming a great listener:
- Talk less, remaining open for new information;
- ‘Turn on’ the listening mode, eliminating side noises and allowing yourself to open your conscious to new information;
- Help the speaker to feel comfortable by using your body language, i.e. gestures and nods. Don’t forget about the eye contact;
- Say no to any distractions. Developing critical thinking is all about concentration, so make sure your phone or relatives don’t distract you from the process;
- Empathize the speaker and the story;
- Never be afraid of silence;
- Don’t be biased. Of course, experience makes us who we are but try to put prejudice aside and concentrate on the speaker;
- Understand the tone of the speaker to see what message stands behind the words;
- Listen to meanings and not to words;
- Non-verbal communication is also very important, so pay attention to facial expressions and body language.
If you are only learning this art, following the above tips can easily become a notebook ‘Critical thinking for dummies’.
One problem at a time
Every day we face multiple problems and often have no time to solve them properly. Unfortunately, it is the main curse of a modern world and to live a happy and effective life we need to be able to solve those problems.
The main secret is to solve a problem one by one and give yourself enough time to understand how to avoid similar problems in future. It is a great way of improving critical thinking and your life in a long run.
Choose a single problem every day and focus on it until you find several solutions and make an action plan. It can be a misunderstanding with your friend, a distraction at the office, a difficult project or a health issue you are constantly postponing. Concentrate on a single issue and you will see that it is much easier and more effective than trying to solve everything at the same time.
Effective guidelines on solving that one problem
- State it clear and precise;
- Study your problem to realize what you need to deal with. Put aside problems, which you are not able to control;
- Understand what information you require;
- Analyze collected information and build necessary connections;
- What actions you can do right now and which should be done in a long run? Critically think about the options you have and visualize what you are willing to achieve;
- Make a list of advantages and disadvantages of your options;
- Use a strategic method and stick to it, while solving the problem;
- Track results of your actions and always be ready to change your strategy if necessary. You need to be prepared to adjust it based on the analysis of the problem, because the more information you receive, the better you are prepared.
All of the mentioned practices are a great instrument in solving any problem not depending whether it is a personal, an academic or a carrier-oriented one. If you want to learn how to critically think you should remember that it is quite a long-lasting process and requires lots of patience and devotion.
Keep everything simple
Have you ever heard of such a term, as Occam’s razor? It is a very popular line of reasoning, which is used to decide what hypothesis has more chances of being true. Its point is to find the simplest solution or explanation, which fits all of the facts. When students are looking for ways how to improve critical thinking they often stick to this approach, as it is the most effective and simplest one.
This is basically the most obvious solution and should be chosen until else is proven. Basically, Occam’s razor is our common sense. If you have any doubts, when watching a TV commercial that advertises a product, which claims to make you look 10 years younger, you are probably right. It’s just the performing model is actually 10 years younger than you.
As you see, there are multiple critical thinking process steps, which you can adjust to your lifestyle and habits. Just choose the one you prefer and train on regular basis to achieve outstanding results!