How to develop critical thinking skills

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CRITICAL thinking is a meta-thinking skill and requires thinking about thinking. We have to absorb the good principles of reasoning and make a deliberate effort to apply them in daily life.

Internalising critical thinking in ourselves is not easy and often requires a long period of training. Here are a few methods to develop critical thinking.

Whenever we obtain new facts, we should make use of them to draw a conclusion. For instance, from gathered information, the individuals in an area wear thick clothes throughout the year – we could then make an inference that the weather in that area is cold most of the time. Confirm the inference by doing research on that area to see if the deduction is accurate.

Form opinions from the facts that have been gathered. Do not just take in the information and leave it aside. Reflect on the facts and use the information gathered to work out feelings and thoughts on the issues that are important. Discuss these issues with friends and argue the points by using facts to back up opinions.

Do not be afraid to question whatever facts are presented. Always raise the concerns or doubts that come to mind. Consider the credibility and logic of the facts before accepting them.

Instead of accepting everything at face value, always look for the implausible side of the information. Carry out research and gather more information to confirm the validity of the facts presented and whether the facts are worth remembering.

Cultivate the habit of exploring and looking for more information on topics that are of interest. Expand knowledge base by exploring and gathering more facts on topics that are important.

Surf the Internet for the latest updates and read magazines, books and news that cover the matter of interest. Instead of waiting for information to be presented, we should take the initiative to gather more facts and build up our knowledge base.

Develop the habit of listing the pros and cons of any issue that is of interest or importance. For example, if implementing flexible working hours in the office is being considered, we should list out all the pros and cons of this system. Look through the composed list and use it to help determine if the staff and nature of work fit such a flexible working system.

As with mastering any skill, critical thinking skills require the right approach and attitude to develop. Merely knowing the principles and reasoning are not enough. Persistent practice can only bring about improvement if we have the right kind of motivation and attitude.

We should beware of having the following attitudes as they will deter us from developing critical thinking skills:

* Opposing reviews of mistakes that were made as they are in the past and not important * Preferring to be fed with the correct answers rather than to work on them * Disliking having oneself or one’s work evaluated or criticised * Relying on gut feelings when making decisions due to a refusal to put too much into consideration

In order to improve our thinking skills, we must acknowledge the importance of reflecting on the reasons for conviction and action. We must be willing to make mistakes, to engage in debate, to deal with abstract concepts and to break old habits.

Priscilla Hiu is a career guidance consultant of Gracia Management and a certified behavioural consultant of DISC Personality Profiling System, Institution of Motivation Living, USA and Extended DISC Personality Profiling System, Extended DISC Northgate.