Critical thinking matters in life and business

Home Column Critical thinking matters in life and business

Critical thinking is like the study of logic—it relates to how we make decisions and use our judgment. It’s more than thinking about thinking; it’s thinking about how we act and understanding how and why we act in certain situations—even during interactions with customers, co-workers and vendors.

The ability to think clearly and rationally is often considered one of the characteristics of being human. An individual’s ability to reason well is a critical-thinking skill. Unfortunately, human reasoning does not always follow logic and is often based on emotional bias.

We live in a knowledge-based society, and the more critical you think the deeper your knowledge will grow. Critical thinking provides you with the skills to analyze and evaluate information so you can obtain the greatest amount of knowledge from it. It provides the best chance of making the correct decision and minimizes damages if a mistake does occur.

Following are some tips to enhance your critical-thinking skills:

  1. Never stop learning. I used to marvel at business owners who would continually ask me questions. These weren’t the ones who let me know “they knew everything.” I would often say, “You’re so successful. Why are you asking me questions?” One told me you don’t learn anything listening to yourself!
  2. Listen to ideas that don’t necessarily appeal to you. Learning doesn’t come from listening to the same things continually or ideas that only support your opinions. When you hear something that’s different than what you think, remind yourself the only way you’ll learn is if you listen to things that are different than what you believe.
  3. Avoid analysis paralysis. This is defined as an inability to make a decision due to overthinking a problem. My mom used to say, “Stop ruminating about the problem and make a decision.” Customers and sales-people alike can fall into this trap. The salesperson thinks they must please the customer rather than help the customer define their problem.
  4. Be strategic in your decision-making process. This is especially true on the sales floor. For example, during your sales consultations, don’t give the customer too many choices. When you inundate her with options, you cause her to develop analysis paralysis. Determine the customer’s problem and give her just enough product options to get her excited about her project. If the customer isn’t thrilled with the first batch of samples presented, ask her more probing questions to get a better idea of what she’s looking for. Sometimes it takes a while to find the right product—it’s not necessarily due to indecision.
  5. Be introspective in your thinking process. This is defined as looking within yourself with the idea of understanding how and why you make decisions. The answer may take more time to discover but it’s worth understanding. To grow, you must be open to learning about yourself.
  6. Hang out with other critical thinkers. Critical thinkers have an unquenchable thirst for knowledge. These are always asking “why” and have a constant curiosity. In fact, they can often be annoying since they are constantly asking questions.

At the end of the day, sharpening your critical thinking skills can improve your overall situational awareness—a skill that will serve you well in life as well as your business. And it just might improve your selling skills.

Lisbeth Calandrino has been promoting retail strategies for the last 20 years. To have her speak at your business or to schedule a consultation, contact her at

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