If someone uses these 9 phrases, they’re probably a critical thinker

Clifton Kopp by Clifton Kopp | March 28, 2024, 4:10 pm

There’s a clear distinction between routine thinking and critical thinking.

It’s all about the process.

Routine thinking will have you follow the beaten path, accepting things as they are without question. But critical thinking?

That’s a whole different game. It involves questioning, reasoning, and arriving at informed decisions.

As a critical thinker, you’ll often find yourself challenging the status quo, and your language will reflect this.

There are 9 phrases that you’ll frequently use, reflecting your thought process and approach to problem-solving.

1) “What’s the evidence?”

Critical thinking is all about questioning, and this starts with evidence.

Critical thinkers understand that assertions, beliefs, or claims must be supported by solid evidence to be credible.

They’ll challenge assumptions, dig deeper, and ask for the facts before making decisions or forming opinions.

This is particularly important in our current information age where misinformation can easily spread.

The phrase “What’s the evidence?” is a tool that critical thinkers use to sift through the noise and get to the heart of the matter.

Using this phrase isn’t about doubting or undermining others.

Regularly asking for evidence is a strong signal of being a critical thinker, as it reflects a commitment to seeking clarity and making informed decisions.

2) “Have we considered all perspectives?”

Critical thinkers live by the mantra that every story has multiple sides.

They understand the importance of considering different viewpoints before forming a conclusion.

I recall a time when I was part of a project team at work.

We were brainstorming ideas for a marketing campaign and our discussions quickly became heated as everyone was passionate about their ideas.

I noticed that we were all talking from our perspectives without considering our target audience’s viewpoint, which is the most important one in this context.

I frequently asked myself “Have we considered all perspectives here, especially our audience’s?”

This phrase made us pause.

We realized that we had been so caught up in our ideas that we had forgotten about our audience.

This led us to reevaluate our approach and come up with a campaign that resonated well with our audience.

When you hear someone frequently asking if all perspectives have been considered, it’s a clear sign they’re thinking critically.

3) “What’s the alternative?”

Critical thinkers don’t just settle for the first solution that comes their way. They’re constantly exploring alternative possibilities and outcomes.

This phrase—”What’s the alternative?”—is a classic sign of someone who’s not tethered to a single idea or approach.

Take, for instance, the creation of Post-it notes.

This iconic product was not the result of a targeted invention but rather a failed attempt to create a super-strong adhesive.

The act of inquiring about alternatives indicates that the individual is engaging in a critical evaluation of the situation and is open to considering different possibilities.

4) “Can you explain that further?”

Critical thinkers are not just surface-level thinkers.

They are the miners of conversations, always digging deeper.

They have a natural curiosity and a hunger to understand things at a fundamental level.

The phrase “Can you explain that further?” is a telltale sign of a critical thinker.

It shows they’re not just passively absorbing information but actively engaging.

They’re not satisfied with just the ‘what’; they’re interested in the ‘why’ and ‘how’ as well.

The focus is not on questioning someone’s expertise or trying to catch them off guard.

Instead, the emphasis lies on gaining a more comprehensive understanding of the subject at hand.

5) “What are the implications?”

Critical thinkers aren’t just about understanding the present; they’re also about anticipating the future.

They understand that every decision, and every action, has potential consequences.

The phrase “What are the implications?” is a classic critical thinking question.

The person who uses it isn’t just focused on solving the immediate problem but is also considering the long-term effects.

This forward-thinking approach helps to pre-empt potential issues and plan for various outcomes.

When someone inquires about implications or consequences, it’s a strong indicator that they are actively involved in critical thinking.

6) “How does this align with our values?”

Critical thinkers don’t just consider the practical aspects of a situation or decision; they also weigh the moral and ethical implications.

They understand that lasting success goes beyond mere profit or achievement; it’s also about integrity and staying true to one’s values.

The phrase “How does this align with our values?” is a touchstone for critical thinkers.

It shows they’re not just driven by immediate gain but are looking to uphold the principles that truly matter.

I’ve found that when I keep my actions aligned with my values, I make better decisions and feel more fulfilled and content.

7) “Could we be wrong about this?”

This might be one of the toughest questions to ask, especially when you’re sure of your stance or when you’ve put a lot of work into something. But that’s what critical thinking is all about – challenging even our own beliefs and assumptions.

I remember working on a project I was incredibly passionate about. I had invested countless hours into it and felt strongly about the direction we were taking. However, when things didn’t pan out as expected, I had to stop and ask, “Could we be wrong about this?”

It wasn’t easy to admit that we might have made a mistake. But this critical reassessment led us to pivot and eventually succeed in a way we hadn’t initially anticipated.

So when you hear someone questioning their own beliefs or assumptions, it’s a clear sign they’re engaging in critical thinking.

8) “What’s the context?”

Critical thinkers understand that context is king.

They know that every problem, every decision, and every situation exists within a specific set of circumstances, and these circumstances can significantly influence the outcome.

The phrase “What’s the context?” is a clear indicator of someone employing critical thinking.

They aren’t just looking at the issue at hand in isolation, but they’re considering the wider environment in which it resides.

This approach ensures a more comprehensive understanding of the situation and avoids potential oversights or misunderstandings.

9) “What if we looked at this another way?”

This is perhaps the most defining question of a critical thinker. They understand that there’s rarely a single way to view a situation or solve a problem.

They aren’t afraid to challenge the status quo and flip things on their head.

The phrase “What if we looked at this another way?” demonstrates an openness to new ideas and a willingness to challenge preconceived notions.

It’s about embracing creativity, innovation, and diverse perspectives.

At its core, critical thinking is about fostering open-mindedness, curiosity, and adaptability.

By regularly asking this question, critical thinkers ensure they’re not limiting themselves but are instead constantly pushing boundaries and seeking out fresh perspectives.

In conclusion: It’s a mindset

At its core, critical thinking is more than just a set of skills or a toolkit of handy phrases.

It’s a mindset, an approach to life that encourages curiosity, open-mindedness, and a willingness to question.

The phrases we’ve discussed are not just about challenging others or winning debates.

They’re about fostering deeper understanding, making informed decisions, and ensuring we’re not just blindly accepting the status quo.