6 Main Types of Critical Thinking Skills (With Examples)

Jamie Birt

Updated November 2, 2022

Published October 7, 2019

Jamie Birt is a career coach with 5+ years of experience helping job seekers navigate the job search through one-to-one coaching, webinars and events. She’s motivated by the mission to help people find fulfillment and belonging in their careers.

This article has been approved by an Indeed Career Coach

Critical thinking allows a person to analyze information and make an objective judgment. By impartially evaluating the facts related to a matter, you can draw realistic conclusions that will help you make a decision. Being able to properly analyze a situation and come up with a logical and reasonable conclusion is highly valued by employers.

In this article, we present the six main critical thinking skills and examples that will help you evaluate your own thought process.

What is critical thinking?

Critical thinking is the ability to objectively analyze information and draw a rational conclusion. It also involves gathering information on a subject and determining which pieces of information apply to the subject and which do not, based on deductive reasoning. The ability to think critically helps people in both their personal and professional lives and is valued by most employers.

Critical Thinking Skills
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Critical thinking skills:

  1. Observation: The ability to notice and predict opportunities, problems and solutions.

  2. Analysis: The gathering, understanding and interpreting of data and other information.

  3. Inference: Drawing conclusions based on relevant data, information and personal knowledge and experience.

  4. Communication: Sharing and receiving information with others verbally, nonverbally and in writing.

  5. Problem solving: The process of gathering, analyzing and communicating information to identify and troubleshoot solutions.

Why do employers value critical thinking?

Critical thinking skills are a valuable asset for an employee, as employers typically appreciate candidates who can correctly assess a situation and come up with a logical resolution. Time is a valuable resource for most managers, and an employee able to make correct decisions without supervision will save both that manager and the whole company much valuable time.

Critical thinking skills examples

There are six main skills you can develop to successfully analyze facts and situations and come up with logical conclusions:

1. Analytical thinking

Being able to properly analyze information is the most important aspect of critical thinking. This implies gathering information and interpreting it, but also skeptically evaluating data. When researching a work topic, analytical thinking helps you separate the information that applies to your situation from that which doesn’t.

2. Good communication

Whether you use it for gathering information or convincing others that your conclusions are correct, good communication is crucial in the critical thinking process. Getting people to share their ideas and information with you and showing your critical thinking are components of success. If you’re making a work-related decision, proper communication with your coworkers will help you gather the information you need to make the right choice.

3. Creative thinking

Being able to discover certain patterns of information and make abstract connections between seemingly unrelated data will improve your critical thinking. When analyzing a work procedure or process, you can creatively come up with ways to make it faster and more efficient. Creativity is a skill that can be strengthened over time and is valuable in every position, experience level and industry.

4. Open-mindedness

Previous education and life experiences leave their mark on a person’s ability to objectively evaluate certain situations. By acknowledging these biases, you can improve your critical thinking and overall decision process. For example, if you plan to conduct a meeting in a certain way and your partner suggests using a different strategy, you should let them speak and adjust your approach based on their input.

5. Ability to solve problems

The ability to correctly analyze a problem and work on implementing a solution is another valuable skill. For example, if your restaurant’s waitstaff needs to improve service speeds, you could consider reassigning some of their duties to bussers or other kitchen personnel so the servers can deliver food more quickly.

6. Asking thoughtful questions

In both private and professional situations, asking the right questions is a crucial step in formulating correct conclusions.

Open-ended questions

Asking open-ended questions can help the person you’re communicating with provide you with relevant and necessary information. These are questions that don’t allow a simple “yes” or “no” answer, requiring the person who receives the question to elaborate on the answer.

Outcome-based questions

When you feel like another person’s experience and skills could help you work more effectively, consider asking outcome-based questions. Asking someone how they would act in a certain hypothetical situation will give you an insight into their own critical thinking skills and help you see things you hadn’t thought about before.

Reflective questions

You can gain insight by asking a person to reflect and evaluate an experience and explain their thought processes during that time. This can help you develop your critical thinking by providing you real-world examples.

Structural questions

An easy way to understand something is to ask how something works. Any working system results from a long process of trial and error and properly understanding the steps that needed to be taken for a positive result could help you be more efficient in your own endeavors.

Valuable critical thinking examples

A company is a sum of the decisions taken by its management and employees. Applying critical thinking in work situations will improve your performance and the company’s chances of succeeding.

1. Promoting a teamwork approach to problem-solving

Any department within a company is a team and effective collaboration is important to its success. When developing a strategy, logically analyze all the team members’ input and offer constructive criticism, while also presenting your own view on the situation.

2. Self-evaluating your contributions to company goals

If your company is trying to reach a target, show critical thinking by evaluating your contribution and discovering ways to improve your performance. For example, you could list all the ways you are contributing and their impact on the overall progress. After doing that, you can think of prioritizing certain current activities, but also adding new ones that you think will help.

3. Practicing self-reflection

Analyzing your own thought process when making certain decisions should help you improve how you process information. This can mean asking yourself why you acted a certain way in a situation or evaluating a decision to find ways you can improve.

4. Making informed decisions

Through time and effort, you can improve your decision-making process by evaluating all available information. It can be tempting to quickly judge a situation and move on to something else, but applying critical thinking will usually result in a more satisfactory outcome. Consider preparing lists of pros and cons, either mentally or on paper, and critically evaluate things from someone else’s perspective.

5. Using your time wisely

Deciding how you use your time is another example of critical thinking. Continually evaluating how you spend your time can help you discover tasks and activities that may change how you prioritize your duties. For example, if you’re allocating a lot of time to an activity that has a low return, such as administrative tasks or internal reporting, you might consider re-prioritizing your schedule to spend more time on high-return tasks.

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