Professional Development

The Ultimate Guide To Critical Thinking

Critical thinking is as much of an essential part of life as breathing is. It’s a crucial skill that everyone must have to make it through work, life, and relationships.

This guide to critical thinking will be the beginning of your understanding of the process and why it’s vital to think critically about all facets of your existence. There should be no gaps in your understanding when you’re finished reading through each part of the piece.

What Is Critical Thinking?

The first thing I will do for you is define critical thinking in dictionary and laypeople’s terms. The scholarly definition of critical thinking is the ability to objectively analyze and evaluate an issue to judge it. Once you use the critical thinking process to form a judgment, you can then take the most beneficial actions according to your conclusion. 

Problem Solving vs. Critical Thinking vs. Analytical Thinking

Some people use the terms critical thinking, problem-solving, and analytical thinking interchangeably. However, they are quite different. 

In analytical thinking, the individual uses an organized evaluative method to look at facts and information and draw a logical conclusion. 

A critical thinker also uses facts, but he or she may consider outside factors that might affect the data’s authenticity or reliability. The critical thinker will then use all the information to form a judgment or opinion about something or decide whether it’s true or false or right or wrong. 

To explain it further, I’ll add that critical thinking uses the following processes:

  • Interpretation
  • Analysis
  • Reflection
  • Evaluation
  • Synthesis

During critical thinking, the individual asks questions of himself or herself, such as:

  • Is this information authentic or credible?
  • Is the source of the information credible?
  • How do I feel about the information presented, and how will that change my choices and decisions?
  • What is the problem?
  • Where does this data take me?

Problem-solving is a step above critical thinking, whereas the person uses all the related data and conclusions to create strategic solutions to problems. Thus, a critical thinker might spot a problem during one of the thought processes, but a problem-solver will come up with the solution to the problem and figure out how to navigate it as well. 

All three skills are necessary for the workplace, and those with solid foundations grow the most in their careers. 

Why Is Critical Thinking Important in Work and in Life?

Why is critical thinking important in the workplace and life? It’s vital because it makes people feel more confident about their decisions and helps them make better choices.

People are presented with endless information that affects their life choices, including their workplace decisions. Without critical thinking, it would be too easy to make poor decisions and suffer consequences. 

The importance of critical thinking in decision making weighs heavily on a person’s happiness as well. People who stay informed through research and analysis and make data-driven decisions instead of emotional choices are much happier.

Examples of Critical Thinking

Now, I’ll help you understand the critical thinking meaning and example. These are some instances of critical thinking at work and in life:

Evaluating Your Work Performance

You will use critical thinking to evaluate your work performance in the workplace. You’ll reflect on all your work and think about the mistakes you made and how you can avoid them in the future. You’ll then evaluate your manager’s performance evaluation and consider his constructive criticism. The process will enlighten you about the steps you can take to improve your work performance. 

Choosing a Life Partner

Choosing a life partner takes a high level of critical thinking. Not only do you have to think about what you want, but you also have to consider a wealth of information about the other person like:

  • Does he want a committed relationship?
  • Do her goals involve having a family and a home?
  • What personality type is this person, and is it compatible with mine?
  • Can he provide stability, loyalty, honesty, etc.?
  • What do sources say about this person, and could any outside factors cause them to be dishonest?

Choosing a Career Path

Choosing the most suitable career path isn’t an easy process. You must analyze, evaluate, and reflect on certain aspects before you can decide what’s right for you. These are some of the elements you’ll need to consider:

  • What do I enjoy doing the most?
  • Is the prospective career in high demand, and will it be for years to come?
  • Is the salary enough to cover my basic needs, debt payments, and retirement savings?
  • Am I skilled and educated enough to prosper in the prospective careers?
  • What is the growth potential of such jobs?  

Evaluating Online Information

You may have to research a topic online to judge a person, company, or belief. It’s necessary for you to use the critical thinking process during this procedure. You will have to ask yourself some of these questions as you take in the information so that you can form a fair and logical judgment:

  • Is the publisher or writer credible?
  • Does the publisher or writer have an ulterior motive?
  • Do all sources agree?
  • Is the information based on facts or opinions?

You should now understand the bulk of critical thinking by looking at the above critical thinking examples. Once you collect all the necessary data and survey yourself, you will have enough information to make a decision or form a belief or judgment. 

Additional Critical Thinking Topics

These are some short descriptions of additional critical thinking topics you can review in other works. You will get a more comprehensive experience by branching off into other related subjects.  

Creative and Critical Thinking Examples in the Workplace

Creative and critical thinking in the workplace involves thinking of fresh approaches to problems and obstacles. For example, you may need to use your critical thinking skills to determine how to reduce your time on a task to meet the company’s goals.

Meeting those goals might involve a little bit of innovation, experimentation, and the analysis of the results you get when you try the new process. Let’s say you want to introduce an innovative new way to multitask. You’ll need to test-run the task to see if it meets your goal and think of a way to implement it each time you perform your work. 

How To Improve Critical Thinking Skills at Work

The best way to improve your critical thinking skills at work is to remain inquisitive and curious at all times. Never stop collecting data and asking questions. 

Another way to improve is to stop and evaluate every situation before acting on it. For example, you may want to blast someone verbally for disrespecting you or walk out the door when you don’t like how your job treats you. Make it a rule to give yourself a “time out” to evaluate the repercussions of that action and decide whether you might be better off weathering the storm. 

Is Critical Thinking a Skill?

Most people have the natural ability to think critically, but some have less prowess than others. Emotions sometimes cloud their judgment, especially when making certain life decisions. Therefore, critical thinking is a skill that needs to be honed and mastered to enable individuals to make the best life choices. 

Children do not have well-formed critical thinking skills. Thus, they’re likely to believe anything another person tells them instead of evaluating all the evidence and data. A teenager has sharper critical thinking skills and will wonder about the motives of the information provider, scientific data, medical information, news reports, and the input of other credible sources.

Adults should have advanced critical thinking skills, but they can be stunted for various reasons. Critical thinking courses and practice sessions can close the gap for those individuals.   

Best Books on Critical Thinking and Problem Solving

Critical thinking books go deeper in-depth into the dynamics of the process. Many amazing books exist, but these are three you can start with:

Think Critically by John Chafee

Users have rated it 4.4 out of five stars. It claims to help people become more sophisticated thinkers. 

How To Think About Weird Things: Critical Thinking for a New Age by Theodore Schick and Lewis Vaughn

It has a 4.5-star rating and takes a new-age approach to critical thinking. 

The Power of Critical Thinking by Lewis Vaughn

This book has a perfect five-star rating and is loved by many.

Critical Thinking Interview Questions

Employers often ask their interviewees to answer at least one question concerning critical thinking. These are two commonly asked questions:

  • Tell me about a situation where you achieved a set goal and explain the process you used to do so.
  • Tell me about an incident when you had to solve a problem but didn’t have all the available resources. 

How To Promote Critical Thinking in the Workplace

Employers can take steps to promote more critical thinking inside the workplace. You will read more about the process, but these are three steps:

  • Train and teach employees the principles of critical thinking.
  • Do not assume or jump to conclusions.
  • Use internal forums for discussions. 

Barriers To Critical Thinking

Biases, assumptions, prejudices, and emotional baggage can prevent a person from thinking critically. Read more about the biggest obstacles to gain more insight.

Critical Thinking vs. Problem-Solving

I briefly discussed a few of the differences between critical thinking and problem-solving. You can explore this topic more by reading about the other differences. 

Is Critical Thinking Overrated?

Do you ever wonder if critical thinking is overrated? The irony in that question is that you have to use critical thinking to answer it. You’ll be able to dig into it more by reading the points in a comprehensive topic debate.  

Brainstorming and Critical Thinking

You can use brainstorming as a method to process critical thinking. The process can start with a standard pen and pencil and a question you need to answer. You’ll learn how to incorporate brainstorming into your thinking process in additional pieces. 

What Is the Role of Communication in Critical Thinking?

Critical thinking is a key component of communication. It helps leaders and everyday people respond to problems effectively. Additionally, it can help those individuals answer questions, solve problems, and communicate goals and expectations.

By the same token, it takes communication to effectively process critical thinking. Gathering all the data information requires communication between people in person, by phone, or by electronic devices. 

Jobs That Require Critical Thinking

All jobs require critical thinking. However, some jobs use it much more, and others demand that certain roles have advanced critical thinking skills. These are some of the workers who use the highest levels of it:

  • Judges
  • Teachers
  • Doctors
  • Lawyers
  • Accountants

The list is not conclusive, and it only gives you a peek at some high-salary jobs that use critical thinking as a primary operational tool. Many blue-collar positions also require critical thinking skills, and you can learn about those by reviewing additional texts. 

Principles of Critical Thinking

There are many principles of critical thinking, and you will learn more about them in subsequent works. These are some of the key principles you’ll need to go by if you intend to think critically:

  • 1. Gather complete data and information.
  • 2. Understand your values, biases, assumptions, and emotional input.
  • 3. Question all facts, conclusions, and source derivatives.
  • 4. Look at the big picture.
  • 5. Consider all cause-and-effect situations. 

You should now have a much deeper understanding of various types of thinking and how they relate to decision-making and problem-solving. Review our additional pieces for more involved information. 

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About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

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