If you are anything like me, your brain gets muddled sometimes. Mine is full of thoughts that go off in a myriad of different tangents while I race to keep up. I often wonder, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to think rationally once in a while? Well, developing analytical skills can help to do just that.
Why Are Analytical Skills Important?
My friends would describe me as unorganised, over-emotional at times, and opinionated. I start working on one thing, but then I lose the thread or the plot. My writing doesn’t have the natural flow I can see in my head. I know what I want to say but I don’t know how to convey it onto the page.
It’s frustrating to me. I find these incredible nuggets and ideas to share with people, then my skills in communicating those thoughts let me down.
But it’s not just about communication.
“Thinking analytically is a skill like carpentry or driving a car. It can be taught, it can be learned, and it can improve with practice. But unlike other skills, it is not learned by sitting in a classroom and being told how to do it. Analysts learn by doing.”
-Richards J. Heuer Jr., CIA (ret)
Analytical skills are considered to be one of life’s critical skills. As such, they can help in all walks of life. This is because by examining a situation analytically, you take out all the emotion, all the bias, and strip it down to the bare facts.
This means you are left with the raw data which cannot be manipulated. There should be nothing left to influence your decision. You are now free to make an informed choice, based solely on factual information.
For example, analytical skills can help you make a decision in the workplace. They help us make better decisions in relationships. They are an aid to our success.
What Are Analytical Skills?
If you’ve never had to conduct an experiment or you have never had to write an essay, then you might not have come across analytical skills before.
Simply put, analytical skills:
Break down complex situations, problems, ideas, concepts, or information in a rational and logical way
It does it by:
Gathering relevant information and new data from reliable sources
In order to:
Find patterns, other meaningful connections, new information, causes or effects
This new data can provide an answer, solution, or help with a decision to the original situation/problem.
So now that you know more about how to think analytically and how it can help you, how can you develop these skills? Well, there are ways you can practice and hone your skills.
4 Science-Backed Ways to Improve Your Analytical Skills
Talk to people outside your social circle
Whilst it is always nice to have your ideas and beliefs validated and backed up by your friends and acquaintances, you don’t really ever get challenged.
I find this a lot, especially when I am chatting on social media. I’ll post something that I consider to be important and then I’ll think, well, what’s the point? The majority of my friends either agree with me or they already know about it.
This is called living in an echo chamber and it can be quite dangerous. Not only do you tend to discuss the same topics and have similar views, but no one has a different opinion to you. As a result, you never learn anything new. You never get to hear a different perspective.
Stop gossiping and start practising empathy instead
You might think what has gossiping got to do with learning analytical skills? Well, again, it’s all about perspective. When you repeat rumours about another person, you are not thinking rationally or logically. You are merely echoing words said by someone else.
There’s that echo word again. By putting yourself in another person’s shoes, you are actively thinking. You are, in a sense, conducting your own research. You are examining that person’s life. You are looking at how they live. What their situation is. What their choices are.
By doing that, you are analysing them. You are seeing things from their point of view. You are gathering your own information and making an informed decision. That’s analytical thinking.
Play brain and word games
There are so many free brain games available that can really help to expand your analytical skills. Any brain games that test your mental ability will do. Games such as Scrabble, chess, cryptic crosswords, trivia question games, word puzzles, and logical thinking games are ideal.
In fact, studies show that just playing these types of games for 15 minutes a day can increase a range of cognitive functions, including memory, attention, and problem-solving.
The best part is that the results are the same whether you play these games on your own or with your family. So long as you play them for 15 minutes a day for 7 days a week.
Put your calculator away
Maths was never my strongest subject at school, but when I left, one of my first jobs was as a barmaid in a local pub. This was before those fancy tills where every item was listed. In my day, you had to add up drinks and snacks in your head.
At first, it would take me ages to work out the correct total, but after a while, I had the correct price before I even reached the till. Nowadays, I don’t trust myself even when I am using an online calculator.
The problem is that mathematics uses the left-hand side of the brain which also deals with logic, analytical thought, and reasoning. So when you begin to use your brain to add up or subtract, you are using the left-hand side more. This helps with honing other analytical skills.
Now that you have a clearer understanding of how to increase the skills for analytical thinking, here is where you can use them.
Where to Use Your New Analytical Skills
- Developing your career
- Relationship conflicts
- Financial management
- Discerning truth from fiction
- Making a large purchase
- Deciding on what route to take
- Choosing a holiday destination
- Hiring a new employee
Acquiring analytical skills doesn’t mean you are a cold and unemotional person. Actually, it means you examine every angle in an unbiased way. You gather all the relevant information and come to the best conclusion possible.
The really good thing about it is that anyone can learn to hone their skills and that it can be used in a wide range of applications.
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