Critical Thinking

Making sense of the world based on one’s own experiences and reasoning and not just depending on the word of others, helps one be the master of ones mind. It means one trusts one’s own ability and can stand by one’s choices, even if they contradict those of others.
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Do I think critically?

While most of us do have independent thinking we may not use it as often as we should. One way to know whether one is using one’s own ability to think often enough is to ask oneself questions such as:

Can you explain your views in your own language or do you find yourself using the arguments told to you by others?

Do you remember from when you hold a particular view?

Do you have a process by which you re-examine your views and make changes as you evolve in your thinking?

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Benefits of critical thinking

Critical thinking skills enable you to be able to analyze an issue. If required you can gather information related to the issue, reflect on the information and then make decisions.

These skills help you to be self driven and contribute value as an individual or as a team member.

They will help you believe in yourself. They will make you aware of your special talents. When you feel good about yourself, you’ll not be as vulnerable to others trying to pressurize you or to manipulate you.

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Use your critical thinking abilities responsibly

Thinking independently though should not mean simply opposing others and reacting negatively to the wishes of your parents, teachers or colleagues. On the contrary we know that our parents and teachers wish us well and we should critically analyze how they have got to their position and see how it will benefit us. Thinking critically and independently should not be a reaction to oppose what others are saying, it should be a regular action that we do every time when issues are to be considered.

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Building your critical thinking ability

To build your critical thinking skills you can start by practicing analyzing and discussing. You can look at the pros and cons of important issues. You can try to build creative arguments and counter-arguments. Try to see what are the underlying issues. Avoid jumping to conclusions that you have not reasoned out completely.

To start building, trusting and using your critical thinking skills it is important to have a positive decision-making environment. Where you can go about your deliberations calmly and confidently.

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Start by informing yourself in depth

To start with you should gather diverse inputs from various sources. Don’t consider only those sources that you tend to agree with. Consider other sources as well. You should be as well informed about things you disagree with, as you are about things that you agree with. Be open and if required be willing to change your opinion.

You should take the time to analyze your own biases and assumptions. Be frank with yourself. If you are uncomfortable analyzing an assumption, avoid looking for an excuse to not analyze it. Instead analyze it in detail and get over your discomfort. If you have not considered all relevant issues in depth and analyzed them a flaw can creep into your decision.

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Come up with solutions and evaluate them

Once you have considered the diverse issues involved and analyzed them, you can generate potential solutions. Then you should evaluate those solutions. Here are some factors that you can use for your evaluation:

Risk – Decisions involve risks. You should make sure you are aware of the risks involved and provide for the challenges they pose.

Consequences – Your decision can have expected and unexpected consequences. If your decision can have serious unforeseen outcomes it is better to consider it further before implementing it. On the other hand some unforeseen outcomes may be quite welcome and if you are sure no bad can happen from your decision then unforeseen outcomes should be fine, though you should still be on the look out for them.

Feasibility – You should make sure that implementing your decision is feasible in a real world situation. If this factor is ignored you may realize later that the choice you made was not a viable option in the first place. There will usually be some constraints when you are analyzing the situation. Unless you are sure you have figured out a way to get past a constraint you should make sure your final decision allows for that constraint. And you should also take care to make sure that your decision will lead to a positive change.

Once the decision has gone through the evaluation process and passed it you should do a final check by trying to visualize how the actual implementation will play out. This is another way of checking your decision.

Once this has been done and you feel the decision is fine you can communicate your decision to those who need to be informed about it.

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Communicate your decisions properly

When you communicate your decision to others it is good to include the rationale and justifications for the choices you have made.

When you communicate it to others you may get some feedback. You should re-evaluate the decision in light of the feedback and modify it if required.

It is also possible that you start to have doubts about your decision when you are about to finalize it. This is not a problem. Just recheck how you got to the decision and if it still makes sense to you, you should go ahead.

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Implement the decision confidently

When the decision has been communicated and all is set you can start implementing it. Back yourself and implement the decision confidently. Be aware of how things are playing out. Be willing to analyze things afresh if unexpected outcomes start to emerge.

Some decisions may require an implementation plan as well. You should make deciding an implementation plan part of the process of arriving at the decision as far as possible.

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Activities:

Have discussions on issues where one encounters diverse opinions. Encourage each member in the group to articulate the rationale and justification for the opinion. Be pleasant and patiently listen to one another. Each member should analyze the thinking of others and where the method or view of someone else makes better sense the member should pick up the learning.

Practice doing things that you can change harmlessly. For example, dress differently than you normally do. You may find out that the consequences of being different are not as catastrophic as you imagine. It will stretch the horizon for what you choose to do on your own and you are happy doing.

Identify an issue you want to understand better and use your spare time to see things from different perspectives about the issue. See if you need to redefine your thinking on the issue.