16 traits of critical thinkers that separate them from everyone else

It’s easier than ever before to fall for the trends without even realizing it.

We’re surrounded by media and influencers who tell us what we’re supposed to think, and it takes less effort to follow instead of thinking for ourselves.

But following trends won’t help you reach your true potential, which is why critical thinking is one of the most important skills you can master.

But what does it actually mean to think critically?

Is thinking critically just questioning everything around you and being disagreeable?

Not at all.

Critical thinking is more than just about the way you think, but also about the way you live.

Here are 16 characteristics that make critical thinkers so different from everyone else:

1. They’re Aware Of Their Own Biases

Our personal experiences color our worldview. Whether we admit to them or not, we each have our own internalized biases.

Our minds have built subconscious preferences for ideas, objects, and even people.

If a stranger did something wrong, we’d be quick to label them as bad.

But if our closest friends did something equally wrong, we’re more likely to forgive them.

Our personal biases skew the perception of situations, stopping us from seeing situations clearly. Critical thinkers recognize this.

Their self-awareness makes way for fairer and more balanced judgments.

2. They Can Be Objective

Critical thinkers always concern themselves with the facts; what they can observe and the information that they can gather.

In difficult social situations, such as in an argument, they are able to set aside their emotions and take a step back. It isn’t cold — it’s necessary.

True objectivity is impossible. We are all born with a default, personal bias.

The best that critical thinkers can do is gather as much evidence and raw data as they can to make the most rational decision in the given circumstance.

3. They Don’t Passively Accept Things

Going with the flow of the trends is much easier nowadays.

When we observe that other people are doing something, we can’t help but to conform.

But conformity stops you, and others, from achieving your highest potential — it might even be working against you.

That’s why in work settings, critical thinkers are willing to ask “Why is our workflow and process this way?

Couldn’t we sell our products at a better price?”;

“Because that’s how it’s always been” isn’t an answer they’re going to accept.

4. They Like Asking Questions

Critical thinkers are the curious types. They aren’t quick to jump to any conclusions.

It’s a slow process of gathering as much information as they can.

To do this, they use a timeless yet still effective method: raising their hands and asking questions.

There’s always going to be vital information hiding behind engaging questions.

It could clarify project briefs, support arguments, or even dispel some illusions to show others that there might actually be a better solution to their problems.

All this can be achieved because of a few questions.

5. They Have A Diverse Information Diet

The way that social media algorithms work is that it promotes information that it thinks will appeal to you while hiding those that it thinks won’t.

Sounds simple enough, right?

But the consequences are detrimental to your ability to think critically.

When all you’re seeing is information that you agree with, you’ll inevitably find yourself in a digital echo chamber; a bubble of your own biases. It blinds you to the reality around you.

Critical thinkers open themselves up to opposing views.

By following people who hold opposing views or adding them as friends, they allow themselves to exercise their critical thinking and test their beliefs.

6. They’re Sensitive To The Details

People who think critically don’t skim the project briefs.

They read each line and think about its implications not just for their clients but also for the company as a whole.

There are usually implicit deliverables that neither the client nor your boss is aware of — they just know it when they see it.

This project might solidify your relationship with the client or, with enough success, could make your company the most attractive one to work with.

It takes critical thinking to see the bigger picture.

7. They Can Connect The Dots

When critical thinkers make their assumptions, there is a logical path they take to get there.

In every report, presentation, or even talk, there is going to be the question: So what does this all mean?

Critical thinkers are able to make sense of the data that they encounter — even seeing through any possible lapses in the reasoning that others might’ve missed.

8. They Can Agree To Disagree

Arguments can be healthy. It’s a chance for you to test out your beliefs to see if it’s credible — if not to others, then at least to you.

Debates reveal how much you believe in your idea or if you’re merely spouting what everyone else is saying because others said it’s right.

The ability to engage in debates without coming out of it resentful of the other person is a good indicator that someone is a critical thinker.

They disagree respectfully. Everyone has their own perspectives. They can’t force their opinions on you any more than you can on them.

9. They’re Open-Minded

Learning from others is a dynamic process. It keeps your mind active and strengthens your critical thinking muscle.

Critical thinkers aren’t the ones to close their minds to opposing ideas.

In this way, a critical thinker never stagnates. They continually refresh themselves with new ideas and new ways to view the world; they’re lifelong learners.

10. They Can Change Their Mind

Critical thinkers have humility. In an argument, if they’ve found that what they thought was right turned out to be wrong, a good critical thinker would be willing to change their mind.

They aren’t being fickle. It doesn’t mean that they’re still willing to defend what they believe in.

They carefully think through the logic behind their argument and the arguments of others.

They don’t simply adopt a different idea — they step back and assess if they believe that it’s credible enough.

11. They Communicate Clearly

People who are able to reason out their opinions tend to be better communicators.

Have you tried explaining something that you yourself hasn’t fully grasped yet? It isn’t easy.

Since critical thinkers work out problems, concepts, even the meaning behind a movie or the plot of a book beforehand, they can better express it to other people.

Thinking critically can improve the various communications that’s going on in your life; among your colleagues, between friends, family, and even with your significant other.

12. They’re Active Listeners

Critical thinkers don’t only have sharp eyes for observing but also train their ears for listening.

Advertisers carefully construct their messaging to appeal to you.

Copywriters use language to hide the catch — be it an additional fee for signing up or even the fact that the discount for the membership ends after the first month.

When you encounter these types of ads — on the radio, on social media, on your TV — active listening and critical thinking help you avoid any unwanted spending.

13. They’re Introspective

It’s easy to set your mind on cruise control and go along with the flow of mainstream media.

Critical thinkers, however, don’t partake in that. They look inward. They think about how they think.

This is related to the ability of self-reflection; analyzing your thoughts, feelings, opinions, even reactions can help you learn more about yourself and think more critically

14. They Can Think Outside The Box

The adage “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it” might actually hinder meaningful progress.

Reverting to the “It’s how it’s always been done” reasoning blinds you to fresher and improved solutions to your problems.

By exposing themselves to differing opinions and material — talking to people of the opposite political party or reading a different newspaper publication — critical thinkers can pick apart the different opinions and combine them to form an unexpected approach and solution.

15. They Come Up With Their Own Opinions

An essential ability needed for learning is explaining things in your own words. When you explain something this way, you’re forced to think critically about it.

Forming your own opinion and thoughts on matters is more effective to your personal and mental growth than adopting someone else’s beliefs.

You’re no longer a blind follower but an original thinker.

16. They Weigh Their Options

One of the areas of life where critical thinking is the most beneficial is in decision-making.

In a group setting, critical thinkers may consider other opinions but they don’t allow themselves to be swayed by them.

Instead, they arrive at their decision by viewing the facts of the situation, looking at it objectively, and weighing the potential consequences of their actions rationally.

Skipping this portion of the decision-making process increases your risk of any potential loss or regret.

Practicing your critical thinking skills doesn’t mean you have to disagree with everything and everyone that you encounter.

You don’t have to impose your critically thought beliefs on anyone as well.

What you’ll find when you think critically is that you regain mental control.

You stop allowing others to shape you and your mind because you’ve learned to do that yourself.

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Lachlan Brown

I’m Lachlan Brown, the founder, and editor of Hack Spirit. I love writing practical articles that help others live a mindful and better life. I have a graduate degree in Psychology and I’ve spent the last 15 years reading and studying all I can about human psychology and practical ways to hack our mindsets. Check out my latest book on the Hidden Secrets of Buddhism and How it Saved My Life. If you want to get in touch with me, hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.

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