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Characteristics of Critical Thinkers and How to Be One

Characteristics of Critical Thinkers and How to Be One

Studies show that critical thinking leads to increased creativity, enhanced work performance, and a lowering of negative life experiences.[1]

And these are just some of the benefits of critical thinking.

Aristotle said it well: “It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.”

What Exactly Is Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking covers a wide variety of thought processes.

To help you understand what critical thinking is, take a look at the list below:

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  • Analyzing.
  • Evaluating.
  • Interpreting.
  • Problem solving.
  • Questioning.

These traits are common forms of critical thinking.

As an example, imagine that you were seeking a new job or career, and had just started to look at advertised vacancies. In order to choose the most suitable vacancies, you would spend time looking at where the jobs were based, what skills and experience were required, and how much the roles were paying.

All the above actions would be classed as critical thinking. You used analysis, evaluation and (most likely) questioning.

As a further example of critical thinking, consider the way that attorneys work. Firstly, they examine the evidence. Then, they use critical thinking in order to create a plan to win their case (or to settle out of court).

What Are the Recognizable Signs of Critical Thinkers?

Now that you understand what critical thinking is about, I’m sure you’re curious to know how to recognize the signs of critical thinkers.

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Let’s take a look…

One major giveaway of critical thinkers is the fact that they tend to be highly successful. This success can be academic, personal or professional. But you can be sure, that whenever you see people achieving big results – they’ll definitely be critical thinkers.

Here are some further signs of critical thinkers:

  • They are creative, innovative individuals.
  • They are fascinated by how things work.
  • They get their news and views from a wide variety of sources.
  • They are always asking questions.
  • They have levelheaded conversations with people they disagree with.

Critical thinkers are successful in life because they are able to analyze issues from different perspectives. This allows them to come up with (and decide) on the best solutions.

If you’re failing to reach your goals in life – then you should definitely begin boosting your critical-thinking skills.

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Discover 7 Ways to Help You Master Critical Thinking

Learn how to question things.

To become adept at critical thinking, you must learn to question things. This includes questioning statements from authority figures, general assumptions, and even your own beliefs. Try asking yourself these questions: “Do I believe everything I was taught at school?” “Are my beliefs really my own? “Does my government lie to me?”

Think for yourself.

Stop accepting everything you are told, and begin thinking for yourself. For example, a guitar teacher may have taught you how to play guitar in a certain way, but can you now improve on that way? By thinking for yourself, you’ll unleash your creativity and boost your self-confidence.

Evaluate evidence.

Evidence can be a great way to find answers to issues you may be experiencing. However, don’t just take evidence at face value. Instead, evaluate all evidence by asking: “Who gathered it, how was this done, and why?” These probing questions will enable you to quickly identify evidence that is sound – and evidence that you should steer clear of.

Become aware of your personal biases.

If you’re honest with yourself, most times you probably think you’re right. While this may be the case, when making decisions, you must put aside any personal biases or beliefs. Critical thinking needs to look at different perspectives and points of view before reaching a conclusion. I know it’s hard to think outside of your personal biases, but for the sake of your success in life – you must try to do so.

Consider motive.

Like a great detective, you must become skilled at uncovering motive. For example, think of a time that a company offered you a free product to try. All you needed to do was give some basic personal details to them. Unfortunately, as well as receiving the free product, you rapidly became bombarded with promotional emails, letters and phone calls. In hindsight, you’ll have become aware of the company’s motive. They didn’t care about sending you a freebie – they just wanted to capture and sell on your personal information.

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Break big issues into small pieces.

Big picture thinking is all the rage nowadays, but it’s not always the best way to reach decisions. If you need to deal with a major problem such as losing your job, then you can become quickly overwhelmed by events. This stress and anxiety could lead to inaction on your part. Just what you don’t need at this vital time. Instead, break down the issue into smaller components. These might include: getting the best payout from your employer, ensuring that all your bills are covered, seeking new work opportunities. Big problems seem much less scary when you break them down into small pieces.

Keep it simple.

Are you familiar with a line of reasoning known as Occam’s razor?[2] In case you’re not, I’ll summarize it for you now. Occam’s razor can be described as the simplest answer is most often correct. Frequently, we look for complex answers – when the truth may be staring us right in the face. The following scenario will give you a good example of Occam’s razor in action…. A loud bang is heard inside an office that is close to a busy highway. Some staff think it may be a bomb, others suggest that it’s just a truck backfiring. I’ll let you decide which one of these is the most likely cause of the noise.

Use critical thinking every time that you need to make an important decision. People will notice the difference in your actions. And before long, you’ll be achieving more success than you ever thought was possible.

Featured photo credit: Matt Bottos via flickr.com

Reference

More by this author

Craig J Todd

UK Writer who loves to use the power of words to inspire and motivate.

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Last Updated on May 7, 2019

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

How to Detect a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing

Work in any competitive field long enough, and you’re bound to run into a wolf in sheep’s clothing. It’s a powerful image. A shepherd watches over his flock to protect them from harm. He’d chase away any predator that tried to make its way into the flock. A clever wolf wearing the skin of a sheep as a disguise can sneak by the vigilant shepherd and get into the herd undetected.

The story isn’t just a colorful description–it’s a warning to all of us to beware the wolf in sheep’s clothing. They may seem innocent, but they have ulterior motives. They’ll use different tactics to camouflage their intentions.

The person who is kind to you, but undercuts you when you aren’t around is a wolf in disguise. A wolf in sheep’s clothing might pick your brain for ideas and then pass them off as their own to get a promotion. They’re always looking out for themselves at the expense of everyone around them.

Wearing a Disguise Has Its Advantages

People don’t go out of their way to manipulate others unless they’re getting something out of it. Hiding their intentions gives wolves the chance to manipulate other people to advance their own agenda. They know that what they’re trying to do wouldn’t be popular, or it might cause struggle if they presented themselves honestly.

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    They’ll be able to do what they want with less interference if they put on an act. By the time people figure out their true motives, the wolf has what it wants.

    Signs That Someone Is a Wolf in Disguise

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        1. They live to take power instead of empowering others. A wolf uses people as stepping stones to get the things that they want. They don’t care what happens to anyone else.[1] A wolf at work might make you look bad during a presentation to make themselves look amazing in front of the boss.
        2. Wolves seem sweet on the outside, but they’ll show you their teeth. If wolves revealed their true identity, people wouldn’t associate with them. They develop a friendly or kind persona, but they can’t keep up the act 24/7. Eventually, they’ll reveal their aggressive tendencies. A wealthy person who likes to break the law may make sizable charitable donations to convince people that they are kind and thoughtful. These donations largely keep them out of trouble, but if someone calls them out, they destroy that person’s reputation to stifle the criticism.
        3. They manipulate through emotions to get what they want. Wolves know that they can get ahead by appealing to your emotions. They find out what you want and need, and they give you just enough to keep you quiet and compliant. Imagine that your boss is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, and you want to ask for a vacation. She might try to play on your guilt and feelings of insecurity to get you to skip vacation or take fewer days off.
        4. A wolf will charm you first. Wolves are experts at manipulating the people around them. They appear interested in whatever you’re doing, and you’ll get the impression that they care. After they get you where they want you, they do just enough to keep you on the hook. This is the coworker who may start out being your friend, but they end up dumping responsibility onto you. When they see that you are growing frustrated, they’ll surprise you with something to charm you some more. Then, they’ll continue to do whatever they want.
        5. Their stories are full of holes.  Calling a wolf out is the surest way to make them squirm. When this person tries to come up with a story, it won’t make much sense because they are improvising.[2] The classic example of this is the significant other that you suspect has cheated on you. When you ask them why they came home so late, they’ll either become upset with you, or they’ll make up a weak explanation.

        How to Spot a Wolf

          Know What’s Real So You Can Spot the Phony

          Do some homework so that you have as much of the story as possible before you work with them. Research how they respond in certain situations, or give them hypothetical problems to see how they respond.

          A job applicant might tell you that she’s always positive and thinks of herself as a team-player. That’s what every employer wants to hear. During the interview you ask applicants to work in groups to solve a problem to see how they handle the situation. The applicant “positive team-player” is bossy and negative. You’ve spotted the wolf.

          A wolf will tell you something that ultimately benefits them. Gather evidence that proves or disproves their position, and see what happens. Chances are, when you choose the side that supports their agenda, they’ll act like your best friend. If you disagree, they’ll become aggressive.

          Spotting a potential wolf–especially if you are one of the sheep–can present you with some challenges. If your gut tells you that a wolf is lurking among all the other sheep, pay attention, and make sure you take the next step.

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          Ask Questions, the More the Better

          There’s nothing wrong with asking questions to uncover the truth. The safety of everyone in your group is at risk. Since wolves often make up stories, you may be able to call them out when their tales lack details.

          When they state an opinion, ask “Why do you think that?” or “How do you know it’s like that?” They’ll have trouble coming up with enough information to pull off the lie.

          Since wolves are always pretending to be something they aren’t, they don’t usually have a clearly thought-out reason for what they say. In a debate, they won’t understand the root of an issue.

          They may also tell you what they think you want to hear, but when pressed for more information, they won’t have anything to add. Their knowledge is superficial. No matter how much you try to encourage discussion, they will not be able to carry on a conversation about the subject.

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          Wolves Are Everywhere

          As much as we want to believe that everyone has the best intentions, it isn’t always the case. Some people only do things to benefit themselves, and they don’t care who they hurt in the process.

          Wolves in sheep’s clothing can be found in almost every setting. You can’t get rid of them, but if you can spot them, you can avoid falling into their traps.

          Reference

          [1] Association of Biblical Counselors: Three Ways to Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing
          [2] Power of Positivity: Beware of a wolf in sheep’s clothing

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