You, Too, Can Develop Critical Thinking Skills

Nancy Anderson
Posted by

If you have a hard time communicating and making good judgments, emotions may be interfering with your thought process. Critical thinking skills help you develop an objective mindset, assess difficult situations and grow from your experiences. In the long run, learning to navigate relationships and problems makes you more successful in your personal and professional life. Start using these four strategies to improve your critical thinking skills and develop emotional intelligence.

1. Practice Active Listening

Understanding someone else's point of view is difficult when you focus on why you disagree instead of listening to the other person. Active listening encourages you to deeply absorb what others are saying and empathize with them. This valuable skill also motivates people to trust you, as others appreciate your willingness to be open-minded and compassionate.

To strengthen your skills, give the speaker your full attention and offer visual signs that you're listening, such as nodding and making eye contact. Let others finish their thoughts, so you get the complete picture and have time to consider other perspectives before responding. If you're listening well, you should be able to accurately summarize the conversation.

2. Think Proactively

Critical thinking is about using what you know to make reasonable assessments and decisions even without all the facts. When you have challenging choices, try to visualize the pros and cons of moving forward. Weigh the impact of different factors to figure out which decisions lead to greater benefits or losses. While you can't solve everything, thinking ahead makes it easier to avoid problems and foresee opportunities. Most importantly, you learn to put the brakes on hasty decisions that could have lasting consequences.

3. Embrace Self-Reflection

Make the effort to look inward and analyze your behavior and emotions. Critical thinking is hard to truly master if you aren't willing to be honest with yourself to mentally work through problems and manage your feelings. Honest self-reflection is a sign of emotional intelligence, or your ability to understand and express your emotions in a healthy way.

Assess your actions and beliefs from an outsider's perspective, and ask questions that challenge your way of thinking. Evaluate positive and negative factors that motivate your thoughts and values, and try to separate facts from emotionally charged opinions. The goal isn't to change what you believe, but to recognize you aren't right about everything and have the capacity to learn from others and evolve.

4. Foster Self-Control

Lashing out with verbal or physical abuse is never a smart way to handle problems. Through critical thinking, you can adopt an inquisitive mindset to calmly deal with negative emotions. During heated disagreements, calm your breathing and avoid raising your voice or making accusations and physical gestures toward others.

Keep communication productive by asking more questions and resisting a defensive reaction. Sometimes, people don't realize they already agree on many points and simply aren't communicating their thoughts well. If you have a tendency to say hurtful things out of passion, come up with a substitute mantra. For example, say, "That's interesting," or "I didn't think of it that way."

Never stop honing your critical thinking skills. From time to time, daily frustrations and arguments test your logic and compassion. Use critical thinking in everyday life, and it gets easier to be empathetic and objective when it really counts.

Photo courtesy of David Castillo Dominici at


Become a member to take advantage of more features, like commenting and voting.

Jobs to Watch