Are you openminded?
Open-mindedness is the willingness to find and consider a variety of perspectives, values, opinions or beliefs, even if they contradict your personal convictions.
If you answered my opening question with yes, it might surprise you to discover that unless you’re being very conscious and deliberate about seeking out other perspectives, you might not be as open-minded as you think.
Your brain can’t possibly process all the information it receives. The majority of data is stored in your subconscious. How does your mind decide what to make you aware of? Things that are important to you, fit with your values or that you’ve been thinking about determine what your brain sends to your conscious mind. Anything that doesn’t fit in that niche, tends to be ignored.
With that in mind, it’s easy to see why you may fall victim to your mind’s good intentions and think what it draws your attention to is all that exists. It’s important to understand that there’s a plethora of contradictory information out there that your mind isn’t sharing with you.
In an increasingly polarized world, the ability to view yourself, your environment and the people around you with an open mind, is becoming increasingly more important. It’s the key to morphing our ever-shrinking, multicultural world into one that’s more unified and collaborative.
But that’s not the only reason to cultivate an open mind. Research shows being curious about other viewpoints, and actively looking for evidence that contradicts your current thinking, comes with other personal benefits.
Open-minded people have been found to be healthier, happier, more creative, mentally stronger, and more tolerant. They also achieve a greater level of personal growth and are more optimistic and resilient.
If you aren’t sure just how open-minded you are, try this exercise.
1. Choose a contentious issue that you have an opinion about. It could be same-sex marriages, taxing the rich to give to the poor, or any other issue that has multiple perspectives.
2. At the top of one piece of paper write, FOR. On another, write AGAINST. List all the reasons you can think of to support your opinion, and then all the things that back an alternate view.
3. Look at the two lists. Are they similar in length? If you have lots of reasons to support your view and few to back an opposite perspective, it may be time to open your mind a little more.
4. Spend time evening up the length of the two lists. You may need to do some research to achieve this. Remember not to judge. This is about accepting the possibility of other perspectives having validity, not deciding what’s right and what’s wrong.
If you need more practice, choose another topic, and repeat the exercise. Doing this regularly will help you become more deliberate and conscious about opening your mind to other viewpoints. No one is asking you to change what you believe unless that feels that’s the right thing to do. It’s about being able to accept the merits of different ideas instead of dismissing them as worthless.
Start looking for middle ground in your beliefs and opinions, rather than hanging on to extremes. Make a list of polar opposite words like right/wrong, good/bad, happy/sad, etc. For each pair, think of at least one word that would come in the grey zone between them. Bonus points if you can find multiple words.
For example, between black and white lies grey, peppery, ash, and dusky. It turns out that open-mindedness is also an accurate predictor of workplace success. Being more accepting of other perspectives not only contributes to a more harmonious business environment it also improves your judgements and decisions.
When people in leadership positions have open minds, they’re better at looking for creative solutions, and turning to members of their team for advice. It’s not about being right; it’s about finding the best solution. If you want to encourage colleagues to be more open-minded, avoid arguing and instead be respectful of all viewpoints. You don’t want anyone to feel defensive. Ask questions that encourage them to reflect on their own beliefs and on alternative viewpoints. Help them understand that it isn’t a conversation about right and wrong.
Everyone has a bias towards thinking their beliefs are the right ones, but that doesn’t mean you can’t override that programming. To do that, try adding some of the following ideas into your life, in a conscious and deliberate way.
• Actively look for multiple perspectives.
• Practice thinking outside your own box.
• Reflect on your beliefs and points of view. Challenge them. Beliefs are highly personal, and sometimes you aren’t even aware they exist.
• Use meditation or breathing exercises to encourage a state of calmness, so you don’t become angry with people who are different from you.
• Surround yourself with open-minded, positive people.
• Step out of your comfort zone, regularly.
• Be okay with having your ideas challenged.
• Consider what others are thinking, without judging them.
• Be willing to accept that the way you do things isn’t the only way, nor will it always be the best way.
• Be open to possibility.
• Be curious.
• Release the need to judge yourself or others.
This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.