Becoming a critical thinker is a process. Adopting the attitude of a critical thinker is an important part of developing the habit of thinking critically about the world around us.

In Becoming a Critical Thinker, Eighth Edition, Vincent Ryan Ruggiero outlines what he calls “four empowering attitudes” of a critical thinker. We’ve summarized these below. Encourage your students to adopt these attitudes, and they’ll start developing the habits that enable them to think critically about the information that comes their way.

1. Stay humble. As Ruggiero writes, “There’s always room for improvement.” When you stop seeking to acquire more knowledge, wisdom, or skills, or you begin to think you’re beyond reproach… that’s the moment that you stop learning. By maintaining an attitude of humility, you’ll remain open to others’ ideas, opinions, and insights—and you’ll continue to grow and develop as a critical thinker.

2. Remain open to criticism. Now, this doesn’t mean you need to become a doormat, or that you have to accept or validate every piece of criticism you receive. (And it certainly doesn’t mean that you should tolerate abuse!) However, if you listen to others’ feedback, evaluate its merits, and apply the valid points to your life, you’ll build your proficiency and develop your skills even further.

3. Be willing to work hard. A great idea is just the beginning. Your talent will get you far, but in order to achieve success, you’ll need to be persistent in your effort to see your dreams come to fruition. This requires thinking carefully and critically about the steps it will take to get from Point A (your idea) to Point Z (your finished product).

4. Treat others with respect. As you speak and interact with people, remember that they have ideas, hopes, and opinions… just as you do. Give their ideas and feelings the consideration that you would want them to give to yours. This doesn’t mean you need to agree with their viewpoints—simply that you respect their right to hold an opinion that’s different from your own. As you treat people with this respect, you’ll likely notice that your interactions have a sense of calm that doesn’t happen when people adopt a hostile attitude. And when you remain calm and civil, you’re more likely to process the conversation in a thoughtful manner. (Ruggiero, 78-80)

How do you encourage students to adopt the attitude of a critical thinker? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Reference: Ruggiero, V.R. 2015. Becoming a Critical Thinker, 8th ed. Stamford, CT: Cengage Learning.