What Is Critical Thinking?
Critical thinking is a voluntary assessment of a fact, comment, experience or content, which uses arguments to determine a response to that stimulus.
That is, thinking critically involves an initial observation, followed by a judgment in the face of a scenario faced.
However, this judgment is not carried out automatically or impulsively.
He looks for references, reasons and arguments that support the adopted answer.
Sound a little confusing? With an example, everything becomes clearer.
Imagine that your colleague has committed to delivering an important report by the morning of the next day.
This colleague is reliable and, therefore, you leave work at the usual time, with complete peace of mind , with the document to present at a meeting with a client.
However, the next day, his colleague doesn’t show up at the office, doesn’t answer his cell phone, or give any explanation about his absence.
Your first reaction will likely be anger, as he has interfered with your activities and, at the very least, made it difficult for you to organize your meeting.
When questioned by your boss about the report, you end up complaining about your colleague’s attitude and labeling him as irresponsible.
After meeting the client, in the late afternoon, you receive news about your colleague, who has had a health emergency and will be hospitalized for a few days.
You tend to feel guilty about getting angry and labeling your colleague, right?
Now, let’s imagine that you apply critical thinking to this very situation.
Without news, you use critical thinking to look for reasons for your colleague’s absence.
After all, he is reliable and is not usually late for work.
It is not difficult to imagine any serious emergency, be it family or health.
This reasoning causes you to contact a close family member of your colleague, who informs you that he is in a hospital and that the report is almost ready – it just needs one last review.
With this information, it is possible to request access to the file from the Information Technology department, or ask the family member to send the report by e-mail.
Note that, in addition to avoiding unnecessary conflicts and labels, critical thinking saved you from rework in composing a new report.
What Is Reflective Critical Thinking?
The term “reflective critical thinking” refers to the context necessary to form people capable of thinking critically, following concepts by Paulo Freire .
Reference in the field of Education, Freire points out the exercise of reflection as the way for an individual to leave the alienated state and become aware that he can change himself and, consequently, his reality through reflection phrases .
In the author’s words, to:
“Transformation is possible because consciousness is not a mirror of reality, simple reflection, but is reflective and reflective of reality.”
Based on this idea, awareness gives people the power to act to transform their reality , thanks to the possibility of reflection.
In turn, reflection is necessary to form critical thinking, because it is by reflecting that we analyze a scenario and forge all kinds of judgments.
In this context, both the word “judgment” and critical thinking do not have a negative connotation.
“Judgment” describes the act of forming an opinion about a subject, while “critical” means that thought is the result of reflection.
What Is Critical Thinking For?
First, critical thinking helps to form individuals who are aware of their reality and, in particular, that they can be agents of change.
In order to do so, they must leave comfort aside and realize that their situation is not permanent, as both humans and the world are in constant change .
Understanding this, it is possible to form empowered citizens , who know that their attitudes will make a difference in society .
Critical thinking also results in a greater ability to make assertive decisions based on solid arguments.
Thus, instead of reinforcing prejudices – which are preconceived ideas – or beliefs, people become more receptive and flexible , understanding the differences between their perspective and that of other individuals.
How Critical Thinking Works
Critical thinking works from a rational and conscious process , formed by a set of cognitive and attitude-related skills.
In other words, thinking critically implies a combination of acquired knowledge and actions based on reflection.
As this article , written by educators, explains, critical thinking has two distinct pillars.
The second, called “critical spirit”, is linked to inclinations and behaviors that lead someone to elaborate ideas and then act according to well-established foundations.
So, we can say that critical thinking starts right after an observation, when images, concepts, sounds or sensations are experienced.
Then, the individual questions them (through his cognitive ability) and submits to a judgment (applying the critical spirit) to know how he should respond to these stimuli.
Advantages Of Critical Thinking
Critical thinking is essential for the formation of successful students, professionals, managers and entrepreneurs.
This is because it builds empowered , proactive people capable of seeing new solutions to various problems, favoring innovation .
Below, we list other advantages of thinking critically:
- Encourages a curious and investigative posture, fundamental for learning
- Provides greater interaction between students and teachers , as both know that they teach and learn, simultaneously
- supports creativity
- Builds environments conducive to research and invention
- Adds flexibility and empathy
- Teaches individuals to structure their own opinions, making them less susceptible to manipulation and fake news
- Promotes autonomy within companies, training empowered professionals
- Increases productivity
- Improves service to internal and external customers
- Strengthens leadership skills
- Makes teams, departments and companies more competitive
- Assists in conflict resolution, providing conditions for leaders to see the motivation of each employee
- It helps to break limiting beliefs – those ingrained thoughts that prevent us from evolving, whether personally or professionally.
What Are The Characteristics Of Critical Thinking?
This type of approach is questioning, nonconformist, proactive, rational and favors the formation of new connections.
The habit of prioritizing questions , even if they don’t have answers, is one of the most defining characteristics of a critical thinker.
This behavior is born from the perspective that everything is constantly changing and building, and that there are always new things to learn.
Nonconformity is another topic that is part of critical thinking, since critically analyzing implies admitting that it is sometimes useful, or even necessary, to change your point of view.
New technologies , for example, can facilitate a process that was performed manually.
New ideas can bring different meanings and beliefs, culminating in improvements within a team.
A third component of critical thinking is proactivity , the posture of people who take the lead and act to transform a reality.
This approach is also rational, as it applies logical elements to reflect and understand what is behind each situation, in addition to formulating rational arguments in response.
Finally, it is worth mentioning the formation of new connections , a cognitive skill that, in general, is developed during childhood.
It is essential for learning, as it links a repertoire (content recorded in our minds) to recently learned information, generating innovations.
Critical Thinking Skills
We mentioned above that critical thinking is a process that encompasses actions and a set of competencies .
In this topic, we’ll detail 11 of the key skills that underpin this approach.
1. Observation Ability
It corresponds to the concentration to apprehend the details of situations through our senses – hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch.
Those who invest in critical thinking recognize the importance of observing the scenario to capture subtle elements that often make the difference in their analysis.
It is not enough to observe.
You need to focus to get relevant details about a situation.
Focusing requires attention and dedication from the thinker, who needs to select what is worth focusing on.
3. Well-Structured Reasoning
To think critically, you need to establish and follow a logical line of reasoning.
Otherwise, the individual will be lost in the face of the various arguments he can raise to analyze a scenario.
Curiosity can be defined as the thirst for knowledge .
It is related to nonconformity and frequently asking questions, which lead to the questioning of reality and, in some cases, to innovative solutions.
You know those famous expressions that talk about “putting on someone else’s shoes”, or “seeing the world through someone else’s eyes“?
Both serve to define empathy, the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes to better understand their wants and needs.
Empathy allows for well-founded judgments, supporting the construction and exercise of critical thinking.
As we explained before, it is necessary to put aside prejudices and beliefs to think critically.
And to do that, we must get to know each other, identifying preconceived ideas and keeping an open mind , do you agree?
Therefore, self-knowledge is one of the keys to stimulating critical thinking.
7. Objective Assessment
If the critical approach calls for a logical assessment, it also benefits from the ability to analyze situations objectively.
That is, it is necessary to eliminate subjective factors , such as emotions, perspectives and the filters of each one, which are shaped by personal experiences.
Of course, the critical thinker will not become a cold machine, despising his impressions and feelings, but his judgment will favor rational arguments.
8. Analytical Skill
It corresponds to the competence to verify a content or scenario, establish connections and draw conclusions about it.
Therefore, it is necessary to resort to their repertoire (previous knowledge), together with objectivity and observation.
An essential ingredient for innovation, creativity tends to manifest itself more easily to those who exercise critical thinking.
And it makes sense, as they spend more time observing and reflecting on different situations, which feeds their repertoire.
They are also convinced that there are always ways to discover, being motivated by the search for new – and creative – answers.
Autonomy refers to independence , the attribute of making decisions for oneself, without waiting for guidance.
In the old business model, this characteristic was not highly valued by managers, but this situation has changed.
The current dynamic, guided by a digital world , fragmented and in constant change, calls for bold professionals , capable of taking control of their tasks and proposing better ways of execution.
Consulting a dictionary, this word is defined as “ability to separate right from wrong” and “ ability to understand ”.
When it serves critical thinking, discernment allows you to identify biases, which are personal notions or judgments embedded in an idea, fact or content.
Then they can verify that the source of that judgment is reliable, building their own opinion based on well-founded concepts.
How To Stimulate Critical Thinking?
We saw above that this approach presupposes the development of a number of skills , which can be labor intensive.
Like any process, critical thinking can be improved through constant practice , as long as you have a repertoire.
So, our first tip is to invest in expanding your repertoire, which can be done by getting in touch with new things.
Try, for example, reading a publication that is not part of your routine, watching a documentary or a play that you are not familiar with, visiting a previously unknown place .
In addition to taking care of the repertoire, observe the summary we prepared with some recommendations proposed by Forbes Magazine to stimulate creative thinking.
Practice Balanced Thinking
This step involves overcoming impulsiveness and automatic reactions, taking a few moments to reflect before taking action.
It doesn’t mean it will take you hours to give an answer, but it will come up with more assertive answers.
Prioritize Mental And Emotional Moderation
Different scenarios and times require different approaches, so a solution that was successful yesterday may not work today.
Therefore, adopt a moderate stance to check which are the most promising answers and, whenever necessary, listen to the opinion of colleagues , leaders, customers, friends and family.
Invest In Situational Awareness
The more details and reasons you know, the more input you have to think critically about a scenario.
Evaluate, for example, the proportion and essential points behind this situation, who is involved and in which frame it is inserted.
One strategy to start is by getting to know other people’s arguments, asking how they formed their opinion about it.
Focus On Discipline, Effectiveness And Efficiency
Thinking critically is not the same as spending hours rambling on about a problem.
However, this is often the case, especially when a group meets to resolve an issue .
However, simple difficulties can be solved from basic actions.
Therefore, try to set deadlines so that everything is completed efficiently.
During a meeting, allocate a few minutes for the problem to be contemplated, evaluated, solutions proposed and put into practice.
Develop Your Emotional Intelligence
Those who learn about their own emotions can overcome prejudices more easily, improving their critical thinking.
Investing in knowledge of your emotional patterns and triggers will also help you identify these patterns in other people.