I really like to think that I have an open mind.
But then something happens and it shows me how far I still have to come.
I dig my heels in. I close myself off to a new way of seeing things. I make others wrong so I can feel right.
I suspect this is pretty common.
Closed-mindedness can become an unconscious pattern that’s harder to kick than we appreciate.
Here are some signs that you too are not quite as open-minded as you think you are.
1) You can be pretty judgemental about other people
Judgement has a nasty habit of creeping in, whether we like it or not.
“What on earth is she wearing?!”
“What a daft thing to say”
“Why didn’t he make more of an effort?!”
Our constant chattering brains tend to throw hasty commentaries around all the time.
Making sense and order out of the world is its job. But in the process, the ego is quick to unfairly label.
We may like to think that we give people the benefit of the doubt, but do we really?
Research shows that we make up our minds about someone in the first seconds of meeting them (in fact, only one-tenth of a second to be exact!).
We then spend the rest of our time together trying to confirm our initial assumptions about them, whether they be good or bad.
When you think about it, that’s pretty staggering.
But rather than beat ourselves up about our judgments, all we need to do is stay alert to them.
A handy tip that I find works is to say to yourself “judgment” when you notice it arise.
For example, when I see someone walking down the street and my mind makes an unkind assessment, I stop my train of thought and replace it with the word “judgment” instead.
If you are alone, you can even say it out loud.
This can be surprisingly effective as it helps you to disassociate with it. You are not only more aware of your thoughts, but you don’t overidentify with them.
You are not the judgmental belief, you are the one observing it.
2) You like to stick to what you know
Open-mindedness isn’t just about approaching the people we meet without judgment.
It’s also about being open to new experiences too.
That means, if:
- You don’t have much of a curious streak.
- You’re pretty content in the routines and rituals of your own life.
- You find deep comfort in doing the same thing day in and day out
…You may not be opening yourself up to the variety that life has to offer.
Inquisitiveness is a sign of open-mindedness.
That means pushing your comfort zone and being prepared to explore the world.
3) You have a stubborn streak
You can be quite argumentative when you want to be.
Perhaps you’re an intelligent person who puts that intellect to good use in order to fight your corner.
There’s nothing wrong with being spirited about your ideas, but do you leave room for the possibility that you may be wrong?
On top of that, what are you actually fighting for?
Does your “truth” need defending, or is it just your ego coming out to play?
Whenever we become too headstrong about something, we usually close ourselves off in the process.
This defensive approach leaves no room for changing your mind.
4) You make more statements than you ask questions
Why can this be a sign of closed-mindedness?
Questions fundamentally come down to a desire to understand. They are about acquiring greater knowledge and more information.
So they become a practical tool for open-minded people to learn and expand. They use them to discover more about the world around them and the people they meet.
If you’re not asking questions, it can signal that you aren’t really that intrigued by things.
Maybe you feel like you already know all you need to know.
But open-minded people focus more on trying to understand than they do trying to be understood.
That’s why questions are a general sign of open-mindedness whilst making statements is more the hallmark of close-mindedness.
5) Everyone you hang out with is just like you
Do you value diversity?
Maybe not as much as you think if all your friends are pretty much the same.
They dress the same as you, they think the same as you, and they have similar backgrounds to you.
You agree with everything each other says.
It’s understandable. We like people more who are like us. It helps us to feel like we fit in.
Whilst sharing similar values is really important in creating close connections, having some fundamental differences can actually enrich your relationships too.
Being exposed to different personality traits, viewpoints, and beliefs helps to open up your world.
It may feel easier when we always see eye to eye with people, but it can limit our perspective.
6) Change totally freaks you out
Let’s face it, change can freak us all out.
So really, it’s to what extent it freaks you out, and whether you can also find it thrilling.
Because close-minded people tend to be more adverse to change.
Meanwhile, open-minded people are more equipped to adapt.
Thanks to their perspective they are more likely to embrace the new and see it as an opportunity to expand.
7) You dismiss some beliefs and ideas as downright stupid
You are open-minded, but only when it comes to those things and people that are deserving of it.
And a lot of people out there are total idiots, right?
But that slightly superior take on things is a form of closed-mindedness.
You consider new ideas and new perspectives, but only if they still fundamentally align with your deeper beliefs and frameworks.
For example, you may consider new scientific approaches that are floated, but you would never entertain “crackpot” spiritual teachings (or vice versa).
When I was younger I really thought I knew everything, the older I’ve gotten the more I realize how mysterious life is.
It’s helped me to appreciate that from my limited perspective and experiences, I can’t really discount anything.
Embracing just how little you can be certain of in life is a more open-minded approach to take.
8) You quickly shut others down during a discussion
Debating to you is all about winning. So the quicker you can reach that conclusion, the better.
We all like to be right, whether we admit it or not. It feels good. But that desire to do so can blind us.
We dig our heels in and shoot people down in the process.
That’s because it’s often threatening to our sense of self to be told that we may have got it wrong.
The important question to ask yourself is:
Is being right more important to me than the potential to learn something new?
Because if I’m totally honest, I often still allow being right to take precedence.
But truly open-minded people are more humble. They dare to give other people a platform — even when they don’t agree with them.
9) You can’t handle feedback
I’m sorry, I think you misunderstood.
When I said I was open to feedback, what I meant was you can give me compliments.
Dealing with critique graciously is a real sign of open-mindedness.
Because you can even apply your non-judgemental approach to yourself.
You can, without prejudice, examine your own actions, words, and behavior and consider the unthinkable:
- That you are capable of making mistakes
- That there are always ways you can improve
- That other people’s insights can be valuable to you
Open-minded people handle it better when their ideas, thoughts, words, and actions are challenged.
Closed-minded people take it as an affront.
10) You feel like people get you wrong
Whenever we feel misunderstood we should try to shift our way of looking at things.
Instead, we can ask:
Am I seeking to understand others?
Because, as we mentioned earlier, that is a defining difference between closed and open minds.
One is more preoccupied with getting their point across, whilst the other puts most of their energy into getting to the bottom of someone else’s thinking.
Are you asking questions, being empathetic, and staying curious?
If you constantly find it hard to see where other people are coming from consider how much you are trying to.
It’s okay to be opinionated, as long as we’re willing to change our opinions
We don’t have to be wish-washy in our thinking to stay open-minded. It’s okay to be passionate about issues. We can still fight for what we believe in.
Being open-minded doesn’t mean we will shift our way of thinking as soon as anyone tells us otherwise.
But if we are open to growth, we must be open to change too.
That cannot be passive.
It demands an active willingness to search for evidence that may go against your preferred thoughts, beliefs, and plans.
More than that — when you find that evidence be truly open to evaluating and considering it in an objective way.
This is what it truly means to be open-minded.
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