What is Critical Thinking & How Is It Best Used?
To criticize is to see faults in something. Thinking is to use your mind in an active way to form and process connected ideas using reason. We have many different thoughts about thinking, which might be listed below.
- Let me think a moment.
- Come to think of it.
- I thought as much!
- Think it out.
- Put on your thinking cap.
- Think better of it.
- Think ahead.
- Think back.
- I am sorry – I just did not think.
- Think twice about it.
Critical thinking is an important skill in making decisions in your life. It is not like analytical thinking which is to examine the nature or structure of something.
Nor is it like abstract thinking where you just have a notion about something but it is not about any person or situation. Creative thinking is what I am doing now in authoring this article for you. I am making something new and original.
Let us use a situation to help better describe a critical thinking moment. We have a mother named Eileen and a thirty-year old son named Alan. Eileen wants to look at a used car and Alan knows a great deal about cars. On a Sunday afternoon, they travel two hours to look at this used car.
The seller gets into the driver’s seat, Eileen is in the passenger seat and Alan sits in the back seat. The seller drives them around and talks continuously. Both Eileen and Alan like the car. It would really fit into what Eileen needs now. After the ride and before they start talking about price, Alan asks the seller to see the title for the car. He did this particularly because as he told his mother later, “Mom, he said two things while driving around that didn’t make any sense about this car.”
Upon reviewing the piece of paper, that the seller stated was the title, Alan said “You do not have title to this car. This piece of paper indicates that you
purchased this car at a bankruptcy auction.” As Alan moves to leave, he states, “When you get the title situation ironed out, please give us a call again.” Eileen, disappointed, followed Alan to return home.
Alan had the knowledge about cars to be able to hear that the seller was not being truthful. He went straight to the heart of the problem. Did he have the title which gave the seller the right to sell this car? He did not. Therefore, in Alan’s mind, there was not anything else to discuss.
Alan managed the situation assertively. He said what he meant without being mean. He was not the type of person to cause drama. He could have
accused the seller of not being honest. They could have argued and left on defensive terms. For some people, drama has identity. Agreement and
disagreement are created with reactions and certain behaviors are justified or rationalized. However, the original problem remains not addressed and
personalities get involved.
Eileen could have played the victim, who is usually trying to prove their innocence by complaining that she had driven two hours, which she would not
have done if she realized the seller was a “liar.” Now that would not have done much except kept the victim drama going. Drama personalities keep repeating their same story with many situations and people. They don’t seem to possess
One must have an intact identity to be a critical thinker. If a person has been raised in a dysfunctional home with trauma, child abuse or neglect, they
would tend to need the help of a mental health professional to learn different communication skills than they had been taught in their dysfunctional families.
In living in such a home where your emotional needs were not met due to the rules don’t talk, don’t feel and don’t trust, fear is felt quite often. Becoming defensive rather than thinking critically can sometimes be caused by FEAR – False Evidence Appearing Real – where someone reacts impulsively rather than think.
Think of some of the things Alan did and remember what they are so you can think critically. He listened. Good listening skills are seventy percent of
learning how to communicate. He listened long enough to get the seller’s point of view and then some. He also had accumulated knowledge. He knew cars and he knew what was needed to sell a car. He was assertive. He knew what his bottom line was and if that bottom line was not met, there was no deal. He was willing to walk away and find another car that would be less troublesome administratively.
Eileen also trusted Alan enough to disengage from the situation even though she liked the car. Some people would have been fearful there would not
be another car somewhere at some time. When you take someone with you to access a situation, make sure you can trust their decision-making skills or that could cause another problem or argument. Knowing you have a right to disengage from any situation at any time is also another excellent belief for critical thinking skills.
Descartes, a French philosopher, mathematician, and a foundational thinker in the development of reason stated, “I think, therefore I am.” We want to develop our critical thinking so that we can “be” the best possible person and live the best possible life. Mainly because we all might know of many situations, including some of ours from the past, where people might want to think again!