What is Open-Mindedness?
The Universe is full of enriching and wonderful experiences that are just waiting to teach us new things about ourselves and open us up to the change that accompanies growth. However, trying new things and embracing the unknown can be difficult. Fortunately, open-mindedness is a skill. You can cultivate it to increase your interest in new experiences, ideas, and challenges.
Open-mindedness is a state of receptivity typically characterized by an interest in exploring and considering a variety of ideas and perspectives. It is usually viewed as a positive trait. Open-minded people are often curious, inquisitive, and contemplative. They don’t just wait for their turn to respond in conversation, instead actively listening to what is being expressed. This tends to lead to less fear or anger in the face of intellectual challenges. Open-minded people also focus less on competing to be correct and more on seeking the right answer because knowledge is valuable. Open-mindedness involves relinquishing some control and demonstrating a willingness to collaborate with or follow the leadership of another.
The Benefits of Open-Minded Thinking
- Strong Relationships and Communication Skills: Others often feel heard and respected by open-minded people and are more comfortable communicating with them. Open-minded people tend toward empathy and humility and are less likely than close-minded people to respond with anger when their ideas are challenged or if they are proven wrong.
- Creative Solutions and Favorable Outcomes: Because they are open to others’ ideas and collaboration, open-minded people reap the benefits of problem-solving and get results that they might not have thought of on their own.
- High Potential for Growth: Few things foster growth like listening to others and engaging in new experiences, both of which open-minded people are very likely to do.
- Build Knowledge and Thought Processes: Open-minded people build robust foundations of information, and they develop thinking processes that involve synthesizing and analyzing multiple perspectives and approaches.
- Optimism: The more open-minded you are, the more able you are to consider that there might be multiple possibilities for an outcome or even the future in general. Open-minded people are less likely to fixate on one specific, often negative, possibility.
How To Practice Being Open-Minded
- Ask questions (of yourself and others). You may find yourself feeling convinced of your own knowledge and expertise. Try to build a habit of asking a question or two, even if you think you already know the answer(s). This helps you build your knowledge and catch details that you might otherwise miss.
- Pause. When your reaction is to challenge or disagree, take a moment. Inquire a little deeper into the feeling. Do you really know what you’re talking about? Are you just trying to be right for its own sake? You may absolutely be in the right, and some situations do call for challenge or argument. However, make sure you aren’t countering simply out of habit or a sense of competition.
- Remember that everyone is a work in progress. You may be extremely knowledgeable on a given topic, but there is always more for you to learn, ask, and understand. No one is beyond error or growth.
- Contemplate and/or research beliefs you do not hold. Try to find some aspect of the argument that you can empathize with or understand. You do not need to change your opinion, but if you seek to comprehend the ways others have come to their differing beliefs, you will be better able to engage in conversation about those differences. This can also help you develop a greater appreciation for and understanding of others, even if you disagree with them. Furthermore, this helps disrupt confirmation bias, a phenomenon in which we seek out information, people, and perspectives that affirm our beliefs while also avoiding sources that disagree.
- Engage in a mindfulness practice. Building a mindfulness practice strengthens your ability to recognize your thoughts and emotions as separate from your core being and thus to respond to them in alignment with your values rather than being in a constant state of reactivity. Some examples of mindful activities include thoughtful movement, journaling, meditation, and art projects.
- Learn to embrace ambiguity. Not having a clear answer can be uncomfortable, confusing, and sometimes even scary. But learning to accept and perhaps even enjoy gray areas increases your openness to new information, perspectives, and ways of thinking.
- Try something outside your comfort zone. New experiences are immensely enriching and informative. They can be challenging, sometimes in every sense, but they encourage us to be more open to the unknown.
- Remember that building a new skill takes time and effort. Be patient and understanding with yourself through the growing pains of moving toward open-mindedness.
Cultivate Your Open-Minded Thinking
Open-mindedness has the potential to benefit your relationships, your thought processes, your wellness, and the overall quality of your life. With a little effort and intention, you can always strengthen your propensity toward open-mindedness.
As you cultivate the skill of open-mindedness, you also will likely observe an increase in your curiosity, humility, collaborative communication skills, empathy, and optimism. If we agree that the world would benefit from more people with those traits, then this is one way to help create a better tomorrow.
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