My colleague has already addressed, in a concise and excellent explanation, the topic of weak versus strong critical thinking above, so I will concentrate my answer on the two questions below:
In what qualities of critical thinking do you find you have strengths?
Many of us may have strengths which contribute to our reputation as excellent critical thinkers. I list some strengths below that you might recognize in yourself:
1) Intellectual courage-the courage to revise previously held beliefs or viewpoints when necessary.
2) Intellectual humility- when we recognize our own biases and the limits of our own knowledge, we are able to pursue further investigations into the truth of a matter.
3) Intellectual empathy- this involves trying to understand someone else's position first before we start in with our own arguments.
4) Intellectual perseverance- this is the willingness to overcome difficulties and obstacles in our search for the truth.
5) Intellectual good faith- this is integrity; it is to hold ourselves to the same high standards of evidence and proof as we hold our opposition.
What qualities of critical thinking do you think you can improve upon?
To excel in critical thinking, many of us will want to improve:
Our thought and communication processes. To explain: perhaps we feel threatened by an opposing worldview and feel the need to lash out. Our carefully constructed belief system may have been built for us by someone else, and our need to lash out is indicative of our fear that our trust in this revered individual or institution may have been misplaced.
It is an awful feeling when we come to the realization that our firmly held beliefs may have to be revised; we are led to question our sanity. We become defensive and argumentative instead of hearing out the other party. We vehemently rationalize our beliefs to protect our position (a very weak critical analysis tool). In the process, we cannot critically assess the legitimacy of the other position because of our emotional fight or flight response. This is when our bodies are overwhelmed with an avalanche of hormones that enable us to either fight or flee from what we consider a dangerous situation.
Often, it may just be our pride at stake, but this fact is worth contemplating if we want to pinpoint areas for improvement. It is good to recognize and accept the limitations of our human natures and that of others; this allows us to listen from a more compassionate place. Listening is a key tool in critical thinking. Whether we are discussing controversial topics such as global warming, terrorism, gun rights or abortion, this tool is key to calmer and more reasonable discourse.