The 4 Most Important Words in Critical Thinking

I was talking with Anne & Charlie Kreitzberg, thought leaders behind CTU, yesterday when Anne stopped the conversation and asked, “how do you know that?” This simple, straightforward question threw me for a loop. How do I know?! I know because I read it somewhere. I was simply reiterating information I read a few months ago from an unmemorable source. The article aligned with my general beliefs on a pretty heated topic, which led me to believe what they reported.

But how do I know? The answer is, I don’t know. I assumed the article was reporting accurate information.

Charlie explained that the core of Critical Thinking is evidence. Critical Thinkers need to understand what the facts, opinions, assumptions, even the lies are in every situation. “Asking, ‘how do you know?’ uncovers where people are getting their evidence from. If you force out rationale you may find things presented as simple facts are laced with opinions and assumptions.”

Anne quickly reminded us the importance of asking ourselves this question as well. “If more people asked themselves, ‘why do I feel so strongly about this?’ or ‘why do I think this?’ we’d be in a better position.”

It can be hard to determine when critical thinking is necessary or even where to begin. These four words make a great jump-start to critical thinking. If it isn’t clear, ask, “How do you know?”

  • Why do you feel so strongly about that?
  • Where did you get that information?
    • How do they know?
    • Where can we find out (if that’s true)?

Just as important, is to ask yourself these questions. Whether you’re preparing for a meeting, responding to e-mails or having heated debates don’t forget to stop and ask yourself, “How do I know?”

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Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Elizabeth Pauker-Silva

2 responses to “The 4 Most Important Words in Critical Thinking”

  1. Breanne

    Great post! Such an important question!

  2. we need to think more about thinking « snippets of cloud

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