Analytical and Critical Thinking Explained

From games in the app stores that hone your thinking skills to professionals agreeing about the frequent need for critical thinking in the workplace, most people think that the upswing in analytical and critical thinking is a good thing that can even be fun.

What do these terms actually mean? How do you develop these skills? And how do they apply in everyday life?

Let’s start with definitions and work our way up to the application of these thought processes from the office to the home.

The Definitions

Critical thinking is the art of thinking well and improving the art of thinking. This is the kind of thinking that drives people to the top of Everest, around the world, and creates such things as Wikipedia. Today, it is often associated with thinking about hard problems or questions that really don’t have answers.

Analytical thinking, on the other hand, is a specific subset of thinking that is concerned with finding the solutions. Examples include the development of gear suited for the extreme conditions of Everest, faster and better traveling methods, and the actual answers that Wikipedia collects. A great example of this is the scientific method.

Because it is a subset of skills, you may find analytical thinking grouped under the term critical thinking. This is similar to comparing consumer math to math. However, for the purposes of this breakdown, the focus will be on critical thinking as it relates to theory and analytical thinking as it relates to practicality.

Critical and Analytical Thinking At Work

The office is one of the best places to practice critical and analytical thinking, with a few caveats. No one really appreciates a smarty-pants and most people have had the (dis) pleasure of dealing with someone like that. Think twice and speak once.

With that out of the way, critical thinking works best in situations and roles where you are planning for the long term. Examples include forecasting where a project should go using what you know now, looking for a better vendor or tool to implement in the office, or considering a department or career change.

Analytical thinking fills in the steps one takes to bring the theory to life. Creating a budget for a new project, testing a vendor or implementing a new tool, and researching where you would want to work next are all ways that analytical thinking would apply to critical considerations.

Critical and Analytical Thinking With Friends

With friends, it can be more difficult to think at all, depending on the friendship in question. How long you have known each other and what you do together can influence your thought process about them. This can get in the way of any sort of thinking, let alone strenuous thinking!

However, analytical and critical thinking can still be done. Examples, where critical thinking can help in a friendship (or just on a night out), include planning the agenda together, making sure that you choose something that most of you will enjoy, and coming up with new places and experiences to try.

Analytical thinking kicks in (again) on the execution side of the equation, like calling to make reservations, remembering everyone’s dietary restrictions, or coordinating the carpool. Sometimes in a friend group, one more analytical thinker will come to the front to finish things up. Give your friend a hand when they need one because ideas come all the time, but experiences do not.

Critical and Analytical Thinking With Family

Depending on the type of family, siblings, fur babies, parents, and a thousand other factors, a family can be one of the toughest situations in which to use critical and analytical thinking.

The major upside of using critical thinking with members of your family is that it can help you consider the why behind old and new issues, situations, and unexpected new challenges that can crop up. Critical thinking enables you to look at a situation from different perspectives to make the best conclusion. Family provides us with a wide range of experience to draw from and can help us consider options we might not naturally. Where the analysis enters is in choosing to apply this insight. Thinking analytically can also help us stay focused on our goals with our family, instead of falling back into old emotional habits.

Critical and analytical thinking skills aren’t the easiest to acquire. In some cases, they can be some of the hardest skills to deploy when you want to. But just like any other skill, you must know what it is and how to practice it. You’ve got this.