A Beginner’s Guide To Critical Thinking Skills

Critical thinking skill is essential in the online world because as the rate of knowledge doubles every 13 months, it’s easier to be overwhelmed and hoodwinked by plausible explanations.

critical thinking

In  The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, Miguel Ruiz warns us, “Whenever we hear an opinion and believe it, we make an agreement, and it becomes part of our belief system.”

It’s a disturbing thought, isn’t it?

You’re surfing the information highway in search of truth. You can’t find the answer, you’re looking for. Then you stumble upon a website, blog, or YouTube video that answers your burning question.

It appears to share critical information, so you buy the product, sign up for the course, or join the cause. Unfortunately, it’s only after you lose your money, time, or credibility that you discover you’ve been scammed.

The Trojan War

Since the dawn of civilization, human beings have been hoodwinked by sophistry. This is information that appears to be true, but is actually a Trojan horse.

If you remember:

After King Agamemnon’s Greek army stormed the walls of Troy in vain, they resorted to guile. They appeared to abandon the battlefield, leaving a peace offering—a wooden horse.

Rejoicing in their victory, the Trojans opened the massive city gates and rolled “the gift” back into their city. Unfortunately, it turned out to be a hollow wooden statue bristling with Greek warriors.

In the words of Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr, “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.” The more that changes, the more it’s the same thing.

So, how do you discern what’s true from false, what’s genuine from what’s fake? How do you sift real gold from fool’s gold?

A Mini-Course to Develop Critical Thinking Skills:

If something is important for you to figure out, say, buying a course, what critical thinking skills should you use to make a good decision.

Here are 7 critical thinking steps, you can take:

Critical Thinking Step 1: Sharpen your observation:

Carefully watch, listen, or perceive the information. Get a feel for what the real story might be.

Critical Thinking Step 2: Gather more information.

Collect more observations based on different sources, and also use your personal experience. It may help to do some journaling, clustering, or listing of ideas to sort out what you’re thinking. It could help to brainstorm with others.

Read more, write more, even draw more…if possible, interview others to find out about their experience.

Critical Thinking Step 3: Ask questions.

Ask who, what, where, when, and why? Ask how the source knows, and how much they know? Wonder if they are telling the truth. If not, why not?

Finally, look into what others have thought…investigate authorities, survey opinions.

Critical Thinking Step 4: Focus on what’s relevant.

As you review information, find a main point that the author is emphasizing. Identify the key problems they are trying to resolve. Select what approach they have used to approach the issue.

One way to organize your thinking is to write out your thoughts. When you do, here are some ways to organize your stream of ideas:

  • Distinguish the whole from the parts.
  • Put the ideas in a meaningful order.
  • Compare and contrast different perspectives.
  • Give reasons for your opinion.
  • Group and classify your concepts.
  • Create a pro and con list.

After you’ve written out your thoughts, the next step is to analyze your journal entry. Select your best ideas and relate it to other thoughts.

Ask yourself what caused you to come to a certain conclusion. What patterns, relationships, and connections relate to early life experiences?

Critical Thinking Step 5: Imagine it was your big idea.

Imagine if you were conveying the information—what would your goal be? And for what purpose? This will help you see the story from another point of view.

Create new ideas and alternative viewpoints. Experiment, invent, or redesign the information. Now based on this exercise, infer and hypothesize what the author had been thinking. In other words, draw conclusions and make an educated guess.

Critical Thinking Step 6: Rethink your position.

What did the author really mean? What are the results of thinking the way that they did? What weaknesses did you find in their argument? How would you rearrange the information so that it could be more accurate?

In short revise, review, and re-estimate your position. Restructure your ideas to see it from a new perspective.

Critical Thinking Step 7: Make a clear decision.

Judge your decision—is it understandable, clear, accurate, and concise? Then criticize it—is it effective, workable, interesting enough to pursue?

This inner dialogue will help you arrive at a clear decision. You may agree with your original decision. You’ve verified that it’s logical, practical, and worthwhile. Conversely, you now argue against it, because you have discerned the disadvantages of following through on it.

Closing Thoughts

It has never been easier to hoodwink as many people over so many issues as it is today.

Unless, you develop the art of critical thinking, someone, somewhere on the Internet is setting you up. They have a fairly good idea about your wants, needs, and desires, and are planning to steal something of value from you…aiming for your money or your soul…or to conscript you to join their cause.

One bad decision can create a change of effects that derail your life. Use these critical thinking skills to stay safe online.

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