How Do You Think Critically?

While you can’t be sure critical thinking will provide correct answers, you can avoid obvious mistakes in thinking. First, metacognate!¬† When you have a problem to solve or a decision to make, think about your thinking. Sleep on it, count to ten, or use some other method to give yourself time to think. You need to be able to calm your brain because many situations requiring critical thinking are emotionally upsetting. The part of the brain that thinks critically does not function at its best under stress, time pressure, or emotional shock.

 

The following six guidelines can help you develop your critical thinking ability. They were adapted from material written by Anita Harnadeck.

  1. Be open-minded about new ideas.
  2. Know when you need more information.
  3. Be aware that different people have different ideas about the meanings of words, expressions, gestures, etc.
  4. Know the difference between something that must be true and something that might be true.
  5. Separate emotional and logical thinking.
  6. Develop your vocabulary in order to understand others and to make yourself understood.

By using these six guidelines, you can increase your self-esteem because you feel mentally competent in many situations. The guidelines will be helpful for:

  • Identifying situations that can be improved by critical thinking.
  • Developing conscious attention to your thinking (metacognition).
  • Increasing your confidence about your thinking.
  • avoiding harmful gossip and futile arguments.

The Critical Mind

Critical thinking focuses on the here and now. When you think critically, you concern yourself with what you think is happening and how you will deal with a given situation. How you behave depends on your beliefs. Critical thinking concerns beliefs and behaviors.

Beliefs are interpretations, evaluations, conclusions, and predictions you consider to be true. If you believe that women are not mechanically inclined, you may not think a woman can change a car’s spark plus. If you have failed mathematics in the past, you may have mistakenly concluded that you can’t do math.

Your beliefs guide your behaviors. The physical and mental skills you’ve acquired, such as driving a car or reciting the multiplication tables, were influenced by your belief that they were important. The only behaviors not influenced by beliefs are those that are automatic (that is, bodily functions and reflexes).

Why and When to Think Critically

You need critical thinking to help you solve problems or make decisions that are important to you. Many common behaviors, such as bathing and eating, don’t require daily critical thinking. You perform them based on previously established beliefs.

Being in new situations calls for critical thinking. Seeing new products, hearing dramatic news stories, and experiencing personal or work problems all require you to decide what you believe.