A term I hear tossed around a lot is ‘critical thinking’. But what exactly does that look like? To start off with, it involves the strengthening of five key skills; communication, open-mindedness, problem-solving, analysis and creativity. As this is a skillset, we can improve and deepen it via time, education, and experience. 

As I’ve said in previous articles, critical thinking is not a skill taught or encouraged in the vast majority of schools in America and Canada. Consequently, most students graduate with disturbingly poor critical thinking skills. 

This is how you end up with people who read headlines and assume they have enough information to not warrant reading the article. These are individuals who can produce talking points but cannot support them when pressed.

Instead of presenting facts they commonly start debates by hurling ad hominems. They’re individuals who are resistant to thinking independently. 

We each have areas to involve within our own critical thinking skills, so let’s look at each component individually while reflecting on that. Part of critical thinking is the ability to carefully examine something, whether it is a problem, a set of data, or a text. 


People with analytical skills can examine information. Next, they work to understand what it means, and what it represents. These are the typical behaviors we would display:

Asking thoughtful questions

Analysing data objectively

Seeking additional information

Unbiased interpretation of the findings

Coming to an impartial judgment

Questioning evidence for validity

Recognizing differences and similarities

Healthy skepticism 


We need to be able to communicate with others to share our ideas effectively. We might also need to engage in critical thinking with a group (think school or work). In these situations, we will need to work with others and communicate effectively to figure out solutions to complex problems. 

The behaviours needed to be successful within this skill include:

Asking important questions

Collaborating with others

Explaining in a way that is understood by others

Expressing opinions and ideas respectfully and impersonally 

Leveraging interpersonal skills

Presenting your ideas in a clear, concise way

Working successfully in a team

Effective verbal communication skills

Strong written communication skills 


Critical thinking often involves some level of creativity. We might need to spot patterns in the information we are looking at or come up with a solution that no one else has thought of before. 

All of this involves a creative eye and could include the following behaviours: 

Possessing strong cognitive flexibility


Being curious

Leveraging your imagination

Making abstract connections

Making inferences



Envisioning a concept 

“i hate that me advocating for reading makes me come off as elitist to some people. our relationship to literature shouldnt have anything to do with class but it does because of capitalism. everyone should be able to freely access books. that’s why i partner with libraries”

Open mindedness

To think critically, we need to be able to put aside any assumptions or judgments and merely analyze the information we receive. We need to be objective, evaluating ideas without bias.

As a result, this would require us to be able to harness the following behaviour:

Embracing different cultural perspectives

Remaining fair

Being humble

Ensuring inclusivity 

Maintaining objectivity



Problem solving

Problem-solving is another crucial critical thinking skill that first involves analyzing a problem. And then generating and implementing a solution, and assessing the success of the plan. Identifying a problem is one thing, but we also need to be able to come up with practical solutions. 

The behaviours around this skill include: 

Applying standards

Paying attention to details



Making decisions


Remaining grounded

Identifying patterns

Leveraging innovation

Using logical reasoning 

The Next Step

So, we’ve covered not only the skills requires but also the behaviors. By this point, I’m sure you’re reflecting on times you’ve debated people who displayed weak or non-existent critical thinking skills.

What’s encouraging is that the stronger our critical thinking skills are, the easier it is to persuade others. Most importantly, the more enriched our critical thinking skills become, the interesting everything we reflect on becomes.