Those who can’t change their minds can’t change anything.George Bernard Shaw
You’re not as open-minded as you think.
I don’t mean to insult you by saying that. It just happens to be true for just about everyone, including Kim and me. If you still don’t believe me (which is a bit closed-minded of you, don’t you think?) ask yourself this:
When was the last time you changed your mind?
Asking the waiter to change your order from the burger to macaroni or switching out of one dress and into another before a hot date doesn’t count. When did you change your mind about an opinion or belief that matters?
If something jumps to mind, inspire the rest of us by sharing it in the comments. If not, don’t despair. Most people can’t come up with anything on the spot. Accepting that we’re not as open-minded as we think is the first step to being more open-minded.
This post on how to be more open-minded will help you find the next steps to take today.
How to Be More Open-Minded Today
Warm Up Your Mind Before Opening It
Get the blood flowing and work up a little bit of sweat with some easy mind-changers. For example:
- Napoleon was above average in height.
- The spiciest part of chili peppers isn’t the seeds.
- Buddha was not chubby.
- Bats are not blind.
For more proof you aren’t as smart as you think, scroll through Wikipedia’s extensive list of common misconceptions. Then maybe try something a little bit heavier like this: Why 5 x 3 = 5 + 5 + 5 Was Marked Wrong.
Ask Yourself These Questions
If you haven’t already put some thought into the question from the intro, “When was the last time you changed your mind?” please do. (And please share your answers in the comments.)
Then try wrapping your head (or unwrapping it?) around these next two:
1. When was the last time you told someone, “You were right. I was wrong”?
Most of us have punched a wall out of frustration more recently than we’ve said those six words in that order. Punching a wall hurts less.
But punching a wall will always hurt. Unlike walls, our psyche softens so saying, “You were right. I was wrong,” becomes less painful over time.
Saying it can even start to feel good. Doing so, A) Means you’ve learned something new and, B) Makes the smartass you had to admit it to happy. Both are good things!
Get started by saying, “You were right. I was wrong” to someone today.
2. What fact would change one of your strongly-held beliefs?
For instance, in my case:
Belief: Following the news is counter-productive.
What would change my mind: A study finding that news junkies in similar professions to mine are somehow better off—whether that be increased creativity, productivity, or improved social interactions—than people like me who don’t bother with the news.
Belief: Men should pee sitting down at home.
What would change my mind: Strong evidence that doing so causes some sort of urinary tract or bladder issues or that sitting on the toilet seat is so dirty that I’m better off avoiding it (which it isn’t).
Now you try.
It’s not as easy as you’d think, but it opens a crack in your strongly-held opinions that helps you be more open-minded.
Do Some Blind-Spotting
“The brain is designed with blind spots, optical and psychological, and one of its cleverest tricks is to confer on us the comforting delusion that we, personally, do not have any.”Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson, Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me)
Like a kid tampering with their report card to make a D look like a B before showing it to their parents, your brain’s always trying to hide the truth from you.
It’s a well-intentioned trickery. Your brain creatively fills in the gaps to protect you from crippling doubt and indecision. But if you let it rampantly lie to you those blind spots will become nasty stains.
Catch your brain in the act:
Do this quick exercise to see your blind spot. Don’t be lazy like Kim when she first proofread this. It takes five seconds:
- Move your head to about 20 inches / 50 centimeters from whatever screen you’re looking at this on.
- Close your right eye and focus on the + with your left.
- Watch the red dot with your peripheral vision. Notice how it disappears and reappears as it moves in and out of your optical blind spot.
Too bad seeing your own psychological blind spots is not so easy. But others can see yours as clearly as they can smell your bad breath. So ask someone you trust today to help you find your psychological blind spots and be open-minded enough to listen.
It’s the only way outmatch your brain’s trickery.
Bonus Brain Trickery
These strawberries are not red:
Zoom into any pixel and you’ll see these “red” strawberries are actually grey. Your brain’s tricking you again. It’s showing you want you want to see to be consistent with what it’s seen in the past.
The same happens with your beliefs. Your brain prefers consistency over accuracy. And, just like seeing red strawberries, it’s nearly impossible to stop it. Being open-minded enough to accept it’s happening is a good start.
Change Something Other Than Your Mind
“It’s easier to act your way into a new way of thinking than think your way into a new way of acting.”Jerry Sternin, The Power of Positive Deviance
If you change everything else, your mind will feel FOMO and follow suit. Here are some things to try changing today to be more open-minded:
- Clothing. What we wear affects how we think and act. So maybe try dressing like a hippie or, if you work from home, do so naked to be more vulnerable and open to new ideas.
- Identity. Challenging your beliefs and opinions challenges your identity. That’s hard. So change your identity entirely by pretending to be someone else. It frees you up to see and believe things from different angles without challenging your identity. (PS: Role play’s also a fun relationship hack.)
- Exercise. Ditch the gym and work out outside. Do a handstand. Brush your body. The fresh air will have added mind-opening benefits.
- Sleep surface. Sleeping on the floor messed up my sleep but sparked my creativity.
- Food. Go out for a type of cuisine you’ve never had before. Or cook it. Or don’t eat at all.
- Routine. Put your socks on before your pants (or vice versa). Take a different route to work.
- Environment. Trade desks or offices with a colleague. Work from a hipster café if you’re not a hipster. Work from a Starbucks or McDonald’s if you are. Escape into nature.
Do a Blind Taste Test
These days, everyone’s a foodie. And to be a certified foodie you must have strong preferences on a certain type or brand of cheese, beer, ice cream, wine, coffee, whiskey, or whatever. Or you think you do.
A blind taste test will tell you if that’s true or not.
If you conduct your blind taste test well and honestly (our guide can help), you’ll almost certainly discover some surprises. You’ll be forced to open your mind about your taste preferences. And maybe it’ll open your mind up enough for something else to sneak in, too.
Saying “but” in a conversation is a refusal to acknowledge that your conversation partner’s opinion can be just as valid as yours. It’s close-minded, so get rid of your buts. Get your howevers outta here, too.
Replace them with “Yes, and…” or, if you truly can’t acknowledge the truth of your partner’s position, “Interesting, and…”
For example, your annoying fiancée may tell you, “Chris, you can’t wear flip flops to dinner. It’s not polite.”
I could respond with, “But I hate shoes and it’s uncomfortable.” We can all guess how well that will work out for me.
Or I could respond, “Yes, and what do I do about the fact that it’s really hot out and my feet get uncomfortably sweaty in socks and shoes?” This will lead to a more open-minded discussion on both sides, even though we all know it’s one I’m destined to lose.
Try it. Go but-less for a whole day. It’s not easy.
And see our post on how to keep an open mind for another language-related way to be more open-minded.
Get Some Perspective
The Voyager 1 space probe took the below photo of earth, the little white dot halfway up the white stripe, from about 6 billion kilometers away.
Look at it and reflect on these words:
“Look again at that dot. That’s here. That’s home. That’s us. On it, everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you have ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives.”Carl Sagan
Would you argue with someone who knows everything?
If the previous perspective exercise doesn’t inspire you to be more open-minded, try this related thought exercise:
Imagine the all-knowing being who created everything in the photo above appears next to you, leans over, and whispers, “Hey, hate to break it to you but [insert any of your rigidly-held beliefs here] is wrong.”
Would you be like that person who blames their computer for making a mathematical mistake and argue? Or would you be open-minded enough to question your belief and ask this being the truth?
Assuming the latter, you have to admit that you could always be wrong. Remember that.
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