How to Improve Your Critical Thinking

Critical Thinking illustration

Critical thinking is a set of skills that help us find solutions to our problems. It is “the ability to analyze facts objectively and form a judgment.” Betterup.

Critical thinking involves the ability to understand the logical connection between two or more ideas or concepts and to know that the solutions are temporary and could improve over time with new data.

Critical thinking could help you:

  • Work independently.
  • Analyze different viewpoints.
  • Come up with the best solution for complex problems.
  • Become a better learner.

Some of the characteristics of critical thinking are:

  1. Disposition. It is a mindset that involves the following factors:
  • Open-mindedness.
  • Respecting evidence and reasoning.
  • Being able to consider different perspectives and points of view (cognitive flexibility).
  • Not being stuck in one position.
  • Skepticism.
  • Clarity and precision.
  • Argument. It consists of making a statement that is supported by evidence. When analyzing a situation critically, you will need to make several arguments to come to a judgment. 
  • Reasoning. Critical thinking requires inferring conclusions. From the facts and arguments presented to you, you use reasoning skills to come to a logical conclusion.
  • Criteria. Critical thinking is a matter of discerning truth from fiction. Not all facts presented to you may have the same level of truth. Certain conditions need to be met for something to be considered believable.
  • Metacognition. It is the ability to think about your own thinking. Critical thinkers can analyze their thoughts so that they can judge whether they’ve thought everything through to come up with better hypotheses.

The following are some strategies that could help you start thinking critically:

  1. Play games that require critical thinking skills.
  2. Ask more questions, even basic ones.
  3. Question your assumptions.
  4. Develop your technical skills so that you can identify problems more easily.
  5. Find creative ways to solve more problems (at work and at home).
  6. Become aware of your mental processes.
  7. Think for yourself. Reflect on people’s perspectives.
  8. Seek out diversity of thought.
  9. Practice active listening.
  10. Weigh the consequences of different actions before you act.
  11. Seek a mentor who can help you develop these skills.

There are three elements to cultivate critical thinking skills (Psychology Today):

  1. Proactive learning. Research shows that the very act of learning also strengthens your mind. If you are not actively learning, your mind is weakening—just like any muscle. 
  2. Problem solving. Usually, you don’t need to make important decisions based on your current judgment. You can rely on the accumulated experience of the organization in which you are working. By implementing specific step-by-step solutions to recurring problems, you will learn about problem-solving.
  3. Decision making. Good decision-making is about predicting likely outcomes to project out the consequences of one set of events and actions instead of another. The key to learning from experience is paying close attention and drawing lessons from one’s experiences. 

Sometimes daily stress or burn out could interfere with our ability to engage in critical thinking or focus on solutions. If you would like to improve your critical thinking skills, problem solving skills, or need to address any personal or work-related issue, feel free to contact Employee Counseling Services:

Dana Scoville, PhD., LMHC, dscoville@ufl.edu, 561 228 2288, B-133

Claudia Herrera, PhD., LMFT, cherrera3@ufl.edu, 561 2282028, B-134

Sources:

Betterup. https://www.betterup.com/blog/critical-thinking-skills

Psychology Today. Master the three basics of critical thinking. Bruce Tulgan. 2023