Take 5: Critical thinking

Liggy Webb provides some insightful ideas to help us make the right decisions.

Critical thinking is the process of analysing, evaluating and rationalising information objectively. It is a way of thinking in which you don’t just accept everything you are exposed to at face value. It is about taking on board an approach that will help you to rigorously question and challenge information so that you can understand the logical connection between ideas.

The intellectual roots of critical thinking are traced to the vision of the great philosopher Socrates who discovered by a method of probing and questioning that people could not rationally justify their confident claims to knowledge.

Critical thinking is about smarter thinking and in a world where you may well feel that you are experiencing information overload, with so much exposure to fake facts and news, it is an increasingly important and a key employability skill.

Observation is one of the earliest critical-thinking skills you learn and it is about your ability to perceive and understand the world around you

Here are five ways that you can develop your critical thinking skills.

Be analytical

Analysing is about breaking information down into component parts and evaluating how well those parts function together and separately. Analytical thinking begins with objectivity and relies on observation, gathering and evaluating evidence so you arrive at a better-informed and more meaningful conclusion.

Observe and listen

Observation is one of the earliest critical-thinking skills you learn and it is about your ability to perceive and understand the world around you. When you carefully observe and document details you will be able to collect information and gain better insight and a deeper understanding into each situation.

It is also very important to focus and listen and, instead of being a passive listener during a conversation or discussion, actively participate. Ask questions to help people distinguish facts from assumptions and probe politely and respectfully for validation.

Probe and question

In order to peel back the layers and discover more information about each situation it is important to probe and ask questions. Open questions can be very useful in helping you to delve further and here are five examples of good critical-thinking questions to ask:

  1. What does this mean?
  2. What is being explained here?
  3. What more do I need to know?
  4. Where did the information come from?
  5. How solid is the reasoning?

Understand your default bias

Whilst you are capable of behaving in a rational way, a great deal of the time you will be driven by emotional, spontaneous, and unconscious behaviour. This is because a greater percentage of what you do, you do habitually and on autopilot.

Once you get to the bottom of your irrationalities and you are able to explain why you behave the way you do, you become more predictable and consistent. This, in turn, can make you more rational. Being aware of your inner biases is the key prerequisite for overcoming them.

Check your emotions

Being an effective critical thinker means keeping your emotions in check and approaching things in a calm and dispassionate way. If you are overtired, highly stressed or upset it will be very difficult to apply cool logic. If you feel emotional take time to step back from the situation and regain your composure before you continue to apply critical thinking.


One really important factor in gaining a better perspective of a situation is to take some time to consider what is really going on. Very often you may feel that you are being pushed into making a decision or coming up with a conclusion without having had sufficient time to apply critical thinking.

Sometimes you may need to push back and create the time and space to think!


About the author

Liggy Webb is a resilience and wellbeing expert and the founder of the Learning Architect.


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