One of the most valued skills to have in life is the ability to think critically. It’s valued by many employers as it allows someone to sift through information and discriminate between what’s useful and what’s less useful.
Overall, it’s our ability to analyze information and for us to make a reasonable judgement call. But what exactly does that entail? What characteristics of a critical thinker do we need to focus on?
It’s important to know this because a critical thinker has a specific set of characteristics and mindset. After all, a critical thinker isn’t all about gathering information. They’re analyzing it and using it to make decisions and fix problems.
If you want to evaluate your critical thinking, it’s easy. Since this is considered a skill, you can turn to skill tests in this area. Consider the Critical Thinking Test or Wabisabi Learning’s Critical Thinking Assessment, which covers 6 categories: Questioning abilities, Use of information, Keeping an open mind, Drawing conclusions, Communication & collaboration, and Self-awareness.
But one other alternative is comparing your current skill set with the characteristics that I’ll provide below. Now, there are several skills that form the characteristics of a critical thinker, but so long as you are comparing the appropriate skill to the other, you should be able to develop yourself further in this area.
Here you will find 11 characteristics of a critical thinker:
1. Having Curiosity
If you want to be an effective critical thinker, you need to be curious about your surroundings and of the world. Those who are curious begin the learning process as they first ask a question and begin looking for the answer.
But the thing is they do this for a wide range of topics rather than in one niche area. So it’s also fair to say that they have a healthy curiosity about the world and people as well. They have an appreciation and even fascination for cultures, different beliefs and views that differ from their own but also are aligned with theirs.
2. Being Compassionate
Critical thinking isn’t all about having a lot of intelligence. While it’s important to have those skills, it’s important to remember that we’re still human, and we have emotional and instinctual aspects.
The world today is already full of judgement and segregation, so you’re not helping much if you only focus on the information and parsing it.
Remember, everyone has a story that made them into who they are. We’ve all gone through challenges and trials that have shaped our lives into what we are today. Critical thinkers know this and celebrate the uniqueness of everyone.
3. Having High Awareness
Awareness also plays an important role. This characteristic allows us to know when to use critical thinking.
The more you are aware of everything, the more you begin to see the opportunities to apply these skills. For all of this to happen, you need to be tuned in to the world and be present.
Critical thinkers also have a healthy skepticism. They don’t take things at face value. They will fall onto other skills. Whether it’s asking questions – showing curiosity – or something else.
This characteristic forms the foundation of problem-solving skills as a critical thinker.
4. Being Decisive
Often times, problems that call for critical thinking also demand that we take quick and decisive action. Critical thinking is about weighing our options and imagining the potential outcomes from the decisions, and how fast they can be set in motion.
To do this, set aside your own fears when making decisions. Sometimes, you have to accept the fact that you’re not going to have all the information you need. Accepting not every decision is the best is important.
5. Having Total Honesty
Honesty is a good policy as they say but, it’s key as a critical thinker too.
Moral integrity, ethical consideration and the actions that we take are all hallmark characteristics of critical thinkers. And it all stems from them being honest.
Honesty also extends to how we look at ourselves and embrace who we are. It requires managing our emotions and controlling impulses, as well as recognizing when we are deceiving ourselves. These things are what make us human, so it’s not something we can remove.
As such, critical thinkers are accepting of not only others around them, but to themselves too.
6. Having Willingness
This is a characteristic that goes hand in hand with flexibility.
Think of this similar to the growth mindset, if we don’t have willingness or flexibility, our attitude towards learning is going to be non-existent. We will also be resist to change and believe whatever we or others tell us. This behavior is similar to a fixed mindset.
On the other hand, when we have these skills, we learn to revise opinions, make changes, and have an eagerness to learn and develop further in other areas. We have a keen eye for growth.
7. Being Creative
While you wouldn’t think critical thinkers are creative people, they are. Creativity is quintessential for a critical thinker as so many positions demand new and creative solutions.
Think about marketing, building professional relationships, these things require creativity. Consider the idea of innovation which is nothing but taking the norms of a specific industry and rearranging them into something new.
8. Thinking Analytically
Of course, being able to analyze information is another important aspect of critical thinkers. Critical thinkers look at various forms of information and analyze it; be it reports, statements, business models, or relationships.
Good use of analytical skills is being able to break information into sections and evaluating them alone and collectively.
9. Drawing Inference
Not all information is spelled out for us. There’s a lot of things that are inferred. It’s important to be able to assess information and base conclusions on the data and evidence.
However, there is a difference between inferring something and making assumptions. For example, if I told you I weigh 230 pounds, what would you think?
An assumption would be that you determine that I’m overweight or am unhealthy. But inferring would be looking at other data points like height and body composition in determining what a healthy weight for a person is.
10. Communicating Clearly
Critical thinkers communicate clearly. They are able to explain and communicate in a concise manner. As a result, they are also attentive and active listeners.
Critical thinking is the tool to build thoughts and express them; this means explaining the line of reasoning and the thought process.
11. Determining Relevance
One last characteristic of a critical thinker is determining what is and isn’t useful. This comes down to determining the relevance of information.
To grow this skill, piece together what information is the most important, meaningful and relevant to your situation. There are so many cases where information may seem important but isn’t important in this particular situation. On the other hand, the information could be meaningful and relevant, but it might not be important in solving the current issues.
All in all, you’ll need to be able to look at the source information and determine if it’s logically relevant to what you’re dealing with.
The characteristics of a critical thinker is vast and there is no particular bath of skills that make critical thinkers. Albert Einstein, Sigmund Freud, Henry Ford and many others were critical thinkers. But how they approached their problems and challenges were all completely different.
Remember that we don’t need to be like them; rather, focus on some of the traits that defined them as great thinkers. The characteristics I mentioned above should help you in this journey.
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