How to Become More Open-Minded
Updated: Sep 4, 2019
It’s so easy in today’s world to agree or disagree with something by default. We tend to unquestionably, and sometimes adamantly, support or not support something, without even really knowing why - just because it falls within a category that we label ourselves as being associated with. It could be that we’ve always thought that way, our friends and family always believed something so we did too, or we read an article once and categorized that as “true”. It’s so easy to do this without even realizing it - I’m guilty of it too!
Humans innately categorize people, places, things and ideas, in order to easily navigate through a complex world each day. However, the same innate characteristic that helps us walk through life, can also be very damaging when we use it to place assumptions onto other people or box people into certain stereotypes. Therefore, it’s important to take the time to question our beliefs and re-evaluate the sources of these assumptions in order to determine why we believe something and if perhaps we can explore or adopt a different perspective.
Below are 5 strategies you can use to help you become more open-minded.
1. Do your Research: Read more, watch more, question more! We are so privileged to have access to tons of information every day, right at our fingertips. There is so much information out there that, honestly, it can be overwhelming. But it’s important not to let that drive you to block out ALL information. Start out small. Choose to read articles or watch videos from credible sources from a few opposing viewpoints. Make sure you aren’t just picking things that already support your own beliefs, but actively search for things that are saying something different too.
2. Play Devil’s Advocate: Learn how to be an advocate for multiple perspectives. When I was in high school, we had to complete an assignment about a controversial topic. We were instructed to pick a topic, decide which side of the topic we supported, and then defend the OPPOSITE side. It forced us to find valid points for the opposite perspective and understand why someone could see it that way, whether we ultimately agreed with it or not. This was an important lesson to learn because not only did it force us to question our own reasons to support something, but also to give validity to other reasons that did not necessarily support our side.
3. Start a Conversation: Talk to someone with an opposing viewpoint. Ask them why they think the way they do and be willing to fully hear them out. Try not to become defensive of your own views and to catch yourself when you automatically think of reasons for why they MUST be wrong. Listen; ask questions. Be open to the possibility that you could learn something new from them.
4. Practice Empathy: When we have more empathy for others, we tend to be more open to seeing things from their point of view. Remember at the end of the day we are human first, and all other labels we put onto ourselves and others are second. There will always be people around us that we disagree with (how detrimental would it be if we were only surrounded by people who reinforced our already existing beliefs?) but we have to find a way to coexist in a peaceful and healthy way.
5. Get to the Root of your Beliefs: Why do you believe the way you do about a specific topic? Where did you receive the information that you based your belief off of? Is that source credible? Informed? Unbiased? Understanding where our beliefs come from help us determine what our assumptions are and how we can challenge them to become more open-minded.