Being open-minded is relaxing. Your brain doesn’t race with judgmental thoughts that make you feel guilty ten times over, and you are not aggressively working to hide a gut reaction that has been programmed into you for so long. But you must remember that an unexercised open-mindedness muscle is not your fault. It is not naivety. It is not ignorance. We are a product of our environment and of the interactions we have with people around us, so growing up in the same kind of place for our entire lives would certainly put us around the same kind of people who would influence us similarly every day. This is why it takes practice.
Open-mindedness does not mean that you must change who you are. Open-mindedness is a level of understanding that goes beyond a simple “Oh, I see.” It involves the steadiness in your tone and the patience in your demeanor. It requires asking questions, being genuinely interested in peoples’ thoughts, and accepting people for exactly who they are, differences and all. Open-mindedness doesn’t even mean that you agree with something. It means you are willing to adjust your own conclusions and take someone else’s into consideration when creating a final verdict. And, sometimes, open-mindedness means that no final verdict can ever exist. The beauty of open-mindedness is that it allows you to find out so many new things and soak in so many new perspectives. It allows you to try on many definitions of Normal until you settle into one that feels right for you – and nobody else.
A thirst for learning
Of course there are many types of learning: Taking in information through reading, observing, or my favourite which is experiential learning. I remember reading somewhere that the most honest sentence we can utter is “I don’t know”. I have come to realise that true wisdom stems from exactly that, an open-minded leader has that wisdom. It is when we are at our most convinced that we have something new to learn. Also an open-minded leader understands that the learning journey never stops. All we can be certain of is what we have learned so far. There is a practical aspect to this too. Our minds are a little like our bodies in that what we put in, is what we get out usually. If we sit and watch soaps or low-grade TV for hours on ends, guess what our conversation and focus is about?
Just when did our natural curiosity about the world disappear? My grandson Charlie is just starting to ask “Why?” Like most children he is curious and wants to understand what surrounds him. But for the majority of us, our natural curiosity stops at a certain point. Why is that? Is it because our minds are made up for us by concrete explanations from our parents or teachers? I remember at 16 having some extremely rigid views about our social system. I mentioned my limited views to a friend one day and she explained to me how narrow my thinking was and bluntly showed me the error of my ways. I realised in that moment I had taken on board the thought system of my parents, who had come from a completely different experience and generation from me. How often do we do that? Open-mindedness means that instead of believing everything you are told, you find out yourself. Even when you draw conclusions, you are open to finding out more. Exploring and actively being open and curious is the key here.
An ability to see things easily from different perspectives
In the world of the open-minded leader there is only “what works” and “what doesn’t work”, rather than what is right or wrong. We live in a world of both entrenched and enlightened values at times. Part of being open-minded is being able to see another’s point of view and evaluating not whether it is right or wrong, but whether it works or not. There is also the phenomenon of paradox working here, so being able to realise two opposing truths can be real. Take Orwell’s statement for example. “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” This statement can be viewed from a myriad of perspectives which if judgment is suspended can help the reader to see the situation from many different points of view. Political leaders are very good at this!
An acceptance and respect for others beliefs and choices
This can be a tough one. I remember talking to a professional who was coaching a young entrepreneur who wanted to get into the modelling world. An A grade student, with a great start-up business, and supportive parents; a glittering future was about to be thrown away by this young business woman who’s main desire in life was to enter the fickle and superficial world of modelling; or so my friend described. But the truth is we never know what is good for someone else, or what path is right for someone. I married very young and inevitably it ended in divorce. But was it inevitable? When my daughter decided to buy a house at age 19 with her first and only boyfriend, I was aghast. Luckily I was wise enough by then to understand that just because things went wrong for me, didn’t mean it would for her. All I said to her was, “Go and try it, but if it doesn’t work, then you can come home” She never has. We celebrated her wedding at the weekend after 9 years of being together. It is the same in the workplace. An open-minded leader will honour other people and the choices they make.
An awareness that their own and others beliefs and filters can be limiting
Our experience in this world is made up through a filter of our beliefs, ideas, thought patterns and emotions. Part of respecting the perspective of others shows a good understanding of this. There is a further element to this for open-minded people in that they realise; not only does everyone come from a different perspective, but it is likely that any perspective is limited. If you’ve ever had to give up a limited belief, without having another belief in place it can feel quite frightening. To be able to form new beliefs, you have to be able to use your imagination, and sometimes going from a limiting belief to a more expanded belief takes a leap of faith. At work this can be a problem whenever change happens, for example when a business is trying to reinvent or rebrand itself. An open-minded leader will understand that they have to instil that faith in their employees if the changes are going to be timely and effective.
Being an open-minded leader doesn’t mean being indecisive, which can sometimes be assumed when someone is accepting and curious of the world around them. In fact, it generally means an open-minded leader can be more decisive because they understand any decision is simply based on what they know in that moment, and therefore an open-minded leader cannot make a wrong decision. Just one that works, or doesn’t.
How to be open minded?
1- Adjusting Your Perspective
Embrace the unknown. If you want to be more open-minded, then the first thing you have to do is embrace something that is completely foreign to you. Sure, this may sound a bit broad, but the unknown can really mean something as simple as taking a different route to work, finally accepting that coffee date with your neighbor, or seeing a movie by a director you’ve never heard of. If you want to be more open-minded, then you should try to embrace one new unknown thing every week—or even, every day.
- Have you never checked out that new restaurant in town because you don’t know what it’s like there? Now’s the time to check it out.
- Have you avoided signing up for that English class you’re interested in because you don’t know anything about Romantic poetry? Go for it.
- Have you avoided the Barre classes at your yoga studio because you’re afraid you won’t know what you’re doing. Check them out and you’ll see that it wasn’t as scary as you thought.
Don’t knock anything before you try it. Close-minded people are famous for forming negative opinions of things they’ve never even tried. They may hate the other pizza place in town without even setting foot in the door, or they think the vegan movement is completely silly without ever trying it themselves. So, the next time you catch yourself espousing a negative opinion about something, ask yourself what evidence you have to support your ideas.
- If you find that there is absolutely no evidence to prove your case, then you should try that thing yourself before you say anything else.
- If your only evidence comes from biased sources, such as your favorite blogger or your best friend, who agrees with everything you say, then that doesn’t really count.
Just say “yes” instead of “no.” If you want to be more open-minded, then you have to start saying “yes” to the things you would formerly say “no” to. This could be your friend’s standing invitation to go to go on a hike, your co-worker’s invitation to join your company’s bowling league, or even your barista asking if you’d like to try the new latte special. Stop saying no to things and start saying that you’d like to try them. You’ll be surprised by how quickly this changes your perspective.
- The next time you say no to something, ask yourself what lies behind this impulse: is this fear of the unknown? An unwillingness to step out of your comfort zone? The desire to be hanging out in bed in your pyjamas instead of meeting new people? Face the feeling and find a way to fight it.
Learn to examine every situation from multiple angles. This is easier said than done, of course. Let’s say you’re politically liberal and support a serious handgun ban. Sure, you may think your way is the best way, and you don’t have to change that, but you should read some arguments from the other side to see what the other people are saying. You may find that they have some good ideas of their own; and if you don’t, then you’ll feel more justified in your own opinion because you’ll be more informed.
- Read up on how other countries run their governments. America could learn a thing or two from Sweden and vice versa. Seeing how other people do things can give you a better sense of any situation, whether it’s fighting crime, dealing with adoptions, or offering easier and cheaper access to healthcare.
- Let’s say you’re a very devout Christian. Can you try reading up on other religions, or understanding the reasons why someone might not believe in God at all? Make a list of these reasons and see if it makes it easier for you to understand your differing perspectives. This doesn’t mean you have to change your mind, but it will help you have a more open-minded outlook
Think of three positive things for every negative one. Though being close-minded doesn’t necessarily equate with being negative, many close-minded people tend to look at most things at the world as being negative or threatening and tend to stick to the things they know. So, the next time you catch a negative thought crossing your brain—or even the next time one escapes your lips—counter it with a positive thought.
- It’ll feel good. Let’s say you catch yourself saying, “It’s freezing today. This weather sucks.” Can you think of anything good about the cold day? Try: “But there’s nothing like drinking a pumpkin spice latte in your favorite café when it’s cold outside.” Or: “Maybe it’ll snow later. I love snow.” Being more positive will help you embrace the things you thought you hated.
- The same goes for whining and complaining. If you catch yourself whining and complaining about something, immediately counter your complaints with praise or excitement surrounding that thing.
- You can find the good in almost any situation. Maybe you hate your 2-hour commute from Sacramento to Berkeley, but you can love the alone time you get to listen to your favorite audiobook.
Pick up a completely new hobby. This is another great way to adjust your perspective and to become more open-minded. Try karate, hiking, oil painting, power yoga, photography, or any other activity that you have never tried before, don’t know much about, and don’t even particularly think you’d be good at. Sign up for a class in your town or at a local college. You will meet new people also interested in that thing and will learn to look at the world in a new way.
- Who knows, your new hobby may even turn in to a passion. And if you really find yourself having a passion for something new, your outlook will improve. A love for photography, for example, will change the way you look at the world.
Mix up your routine. Close-minded people tend to do the same thing every day because they’re convinced that they wouldn’t be happy if they did something different, had a different breakfast, or took a different route to work. So, do just that. Don’t eat the same bagel and cream cheese and go for some oatmeal and a fruit salad. Don’t go to the gym after work; try running in the morning instead. And don’t go straight home after work or school, either; hang out with your co-workers or friends instead.
- You’ll be surprised by how quickly you’ll start looking at the world in a new way when you get out of your old rut.
- Routines are a good way to bring order and stability to your life and there’s nothing wrong with them. But if you want to be more open-minded, mixing it up once in a while will show you that there’s more than one way to live your life.
- Let’s say you planned to stay in all weekend and watch that ‘’Law & Order’’ marathon you’ve been craving. Your friend invites you to her beach house at the last minute—if you want to start changing your life for the better and to be more open to new experiences, then you better say yes.[/bullet_block]
2- Broadening your Horizons
Educate yourself. If you want to be more open-minded, then you have to broaden your horizons any way you can. Educating yourself is a broad idea, and you can achieve this through going to school, taking some night or online classes, or just by reading more books and watching online tutorials about how to do more things. The more educated you are, the less like you are to fall victim to bias.
- Spend three hours on wikiHow next Sunday and learn how to do ten new things. Then, try them out.
- Being more educated will make you more informed and less likely to form close-minded opinions.
- Being educated will also help you hold your ground in your position if you like to argue, and it will also help you become more open to the point of view of the person you’re arguing with
Read more. It’s hard to be open-minded without reading. You should read widely: non-fiction, literary fiction, magazines, newspapers, blogs, or almost any kind of reading materials will enrich your life and make you understand that there are an infinite amount of ways to live and enjoy your life. Read a book about a country you’ve never been to, or a book about a political movement you don’t know much about. The more you know, the more power you’ll have to make educated decisions and to be more open-minded.
- Start a Goodreads account and try to tackle at least three books a month, at first. See what other people are reading and get inspired.
- Spend hours at a bookshop perusing the shelves until you find a book that speaks out to you. Then, make a goal of finishing it by the weekend.
- Join a book club. This will make you even more open to a wide variety of literature and will expose you to a number of new opinions.
Travel as much as you can. Though many people have a limited budget, you should make a habit of traveling when you find the money. If you only have a little bit of money to spare, just travel to a fun destination a few hours away from your hometown and try to learn something new. If you have more money to work with, go look at the Mayan ruins in Mexico, check out the plethora of museums in Paris, or spend a weekend in Montreal.