Being open-minded is a necessary trait for developing better relationships, productivity, and self-control. Only when we look introspectively can we learn the true benefits behind keeping an open mind and straying away from unwarranted judgments.
Today I intend to discuss some easy and time-proven steps towards becoming more open-minded and considering any opposing point of view before falling into the habit of having “the only right answer.”
Steps Towards Open-Mindedness
Live to Learn
Often recognizing that “you don’t know what you don’t know” is a good way to end a cycle of judgments merely through the recognition that you will never know everything. There will always be more to learn, more to the story, and more to life.
Generating a healthy curiosity about life and those in it will keep you asking questions, as well as aid you in forming the habit of questioning the most immediate (and occasionally non-beneficial) answer.
As a consultant, I enjoy finding the correct answers, but that happens only after I’ve spent the majority of my time asking questions and forming ideas. Constant questioning is the result of believing that there is always more useful information you can uncover about any subject.
Consider the following quote, “Everyone you meet has something to teach you.” Believing in this concept with conviction will ensure that you remain open to the ideas of others as long as you are willing to be so.
And consider this, we as people will never know anything, we will only ever perceive everything. All of life’s experiences are filtered through our thoughts, beliefs, and emotions. Recognizing this often forces you to face the fact that (due to our perceptions) there is no true “reality.” It is only what we perceive. And perceptions can be tricked rather easily.
Action Step: Avoid telling someone that they are wrong, at all costs. Doing so confirms to you that life’s choices are binary, and that you are always “right.” Make your opinion known as exactly that, a difference in opinion, and back it up with ideas, studies, or statistics to share.
Avoid the Self-Efficacy of Survival
The self-efficacy of survival is a concept I created in my book The Potential Dichotomy. Ultimately, the “Self-Efficacy of Survival” states that the subconscious mind (which controls our habits) has a difficult time distinguishing between actions that are necessary for survival and actions that are immediately comfortable.
What occurs as a result is this: The subconscious mind transforms your daily actions into habits through the misconstrued belief that they are somehow necessary for your immediate survival, even if those habits eventually harm you. (Consider: Why would we eat candy knowing its negative effects on us? Why would we avoid exercise knowing it can help us? Etc.)
The self-efficacy of survival is all about making us feel comfortable in a routine. This comfort, unfortunately, also tends to play a part in our thinking processes as well. We like to assume we are always correct, and that our opinions are fact, when in reality – and as we’ve discussed – nothing is fact.
Our ability to roam outside of our comfort zones is what makes us human. We can choose not to take the path of least resistance that dictates the behaviors of most animals.
Actions Step: Do things that scare you. Try something brand new that scares you entirely, and watch how you can use your own thinking to come out a stronger and more motivated, resilient individual. Doing things that scare you means rejecting the idea of the “same old” that is presented to us by our subconscious. In doing so, we disrupt the preconceived pattern of thought that we have, and can implement new and open-minded ideas to all of what life has to offer us. The same patterns can be found in your organization.
Avoid Immediate Reaction
It’s easy to get caught up in the “now” and to take action without first noticing the bigger-picture.
For more on “bigger-picture” thinking and how it is different than “big-picture” thinking, click HERE!
Ultimately, our reactions are those things we do without really thinking or considering the effects that they will have on us, others, or our organizations. They are what we need to change in order to avoid getting caught in the same old song and dance, and to generate more productivity based on what matters most in getting the intended results.
Reactions come in many shapes and forms; oftentimes they are merely a result of the Self-Efficacy of Survival and control your thoughts based on what seems comfortable or “usual.” Controlling the way you react is about keeping the bigger picture in mind at all times.
Consider this example: Should you have an employee come to you with an issue, how do you think the most effective way to deal with it is?
You can yell and be sure to let the employee know it was their fault and that they are in trouble.
You can send them off and tell them not to bother you until it is fixed.
Or, you can trust the employee (considering they brought you the issue for a reason) and help them work it out.
Which of these situations develops the most potential buy-in and commitment on the end of the employee? You’d probably say they are more committed to company success when you avoid the reaction of avoidance to the problem.
By working with them to fix the problem you have done a couple of things.
1) You have shown them that you are as much a team player as they are, which develops great amounts of trust. Executives and managers are told little white lies day in and day out. They appreciate honesty, and by coming off as unassuming in your actions, you are more likely to develop an honest and communicative team, which lowers “miscommunication costs.”
What are miscommunication costs? They are the costs associated with misunderstandings, judgments, lack of information, fear of individualism, and more. They are EXTREMELY expensive. Consider the thought: What could your company be like if miscommunication costs didn’t exist, and every employee perfectly performed their job duties? It would be a utopia.
2) By working with the employee to solve the problem, the manager has become a true and effective leader. The manager has shown to their employees that their positions are relevant and important (through using his/her own precious time). Dale Carnegie, the author of How to Win Friends and Influence People, mentions that a feeling of importance is entirely necessary for developing motivation and strong relationships between people.
Action Step: Should problems arise beyond the capabilities of your staff, friends, or people in general, treat them as your own problems and help them, you’ll never know when you might need their help in the future.
Avoid a Victim Mentality
Victims are those who give away the personal power they have to the circumstances in which they find themselves. A victim mentality is ALWAYS internally debilitating. Only when we choose to avoid closing ourselves off, and instead to become open to new information, ideas, and thoughts, can we begin to destroy the victim-habit.
The victim habit is the thought process we all find ourselves in from time to time. It is the idea that we are not in control of our own lives, and that some other thing can somehow affect our happiness and ability to live with purpose. It has been said “The mark of an intelligent mind is to entertain a thought without adopting it.”
Ultimately, what we can learn from this quote is this: there will be ideas, thoughts, and in rare cases, people in general, that contradict your ideas and thoughts. Only when we decide not to become a victim and feel personally attacked, can we begin to practice the open-mindedness that comes with entertaining opposing viewpoints.
Action Step: Make it a point to recognize why you may feel victimized by something. “We often judge others by their actions, but ourselves by our intentions.” – Stephen Covey, author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. By avoiding personal offense, we give ourselves the power to see alternative perspectives more clearly, and entertain different information.
Be a Master of Fear
Fear is the killer of more dreams than anything else. We are afraid to fail, afraid to succeed, afraid to die, even afraid to live to some extent!
Mastering fear comes from two things. 1) Recognizing that fear is present in most things and will not simply go away, and 2) taking action regardless of the fear you feel.
It’s easier said than done, obviously, but the importance can’t be stated enough. New things will come across as scary, even if those things are good. The self-efficacy of survival does not discriminate, after all. And eventually, if you want something you don’t have, you will have to do something you have never done.
Mark Twain famously said, “Courage is not the absence of fear, it is the mastery of it.” This is a point I like to take to heart. Think of it this way, being fearful often means you are doing big things and making big changes. Therefore, in a sense, fear is a signal for success!
Be aware of why you are afraid, and determine if that thing really is the end of the world to you. For example, jumping off a cliff is a relevant fear with the potential for harm, but will you die if you give that presentation to the board, start your public speaking career, or even leave your job to pursue your dreams? Likely not.
Action Step: Take action despite the fear involved, and start today. Don’t give yourself much time to think about it, and start small. Any number of things can scare you, but security comes from the efficacy in your experience to deal with fear!
We’ve discussed some very basic points about open-mindedness that have been proven throughout time and within individuals and organizations. Keeping an open mind is one of the most important things you can do to breed commitment in your organization, and not merely compliance.
As we know, commitment is when people know why they are important. Compliance is a result of “bossiness” and “do it because I told you to.”
Here’s a summary of the key takeaways.
Live to Learn
Avoid the Self-Efficacy of Survival
Avoid Immediate Reaction
Avoid a Victim Mentality
and, Be a Master of Fear
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