Open-mindedness is a characteristic of a mature and curious person who tries to understand things beyond his belief systems. It is the exact opposite of someone who does not entertain any idea than his own.
Being open-minded allows you to explore new frontiers, discover new perspectives, and understand other people’s cultures and beliefs. Of course, it does not mean you will believe what they do—it only means you are willing to listen without arguing. Below are some of the best examples of open-mindedness.
1. You want to hear what others have to say
An open-minded person is curious about what other people have in mind. It is why an open-minded person is a good conversationalist.
Many people have a fanatical devotion to their political choices. As an open-minded person, you would listen as to why someone would support the other camp—the goal is not to ready your counterargument but to let the other person be heard. If you do, you will learn something from that person or see an issue from another light, not just yours.
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2. You find it acceptable for people to disagree with you
Close-minded individuals get angry when someone disagrees with them. Their default position is that they are right, and the other party is wrong.
Let us say you agree to have the death penalty, and the other person disagrees. If you are open-minded, you will allow that person to justify his position without getting angry.
Open-mindedness is also a relationship saver. For example, you may want a new car, but your spouse says it is not an excellent financial move. Listening to your spouse, not just merely hearing, shows maturity and open-mindedness.
3. You look at your mistakes from the perspective of others
It is unfortunate that many times, we wrong people without meaning to. It is why it is a mistake—not a crime. We sometimes do things that may have offended other people, like making a joke about little people.
If someone points out that you are politically incorrect or that you are offensive, you will see your errors if you are an open-minded person and apologize. As a mature person, you listen to people’s justification about why what you did was wrong.
4. You want to see or feel what people are going through
An open-minded person tries to understand what people are going through with their lives; he does not blame others for their current plight.
For example, it is too easy to pronounce judgment about a homeless person. It is easy to say that the homeless person is a drug addict or an irresponsible alcoholic. An open-minded person will not do this.
Instead, the open-minded person would empathize and focus on how he can help and make this world a better place. However, you can only do that if you explore the possible reasons why this person is homeless, not just judge him by his current situation.
5. You read both sides of the story before making a judgment
People have different opinions, from politics to scientific achievements like landing on the moon. A closed-minded person “takes a side” and then stands for it.
Often, we’ll only agree with the position of our ‘team’ or the television presenter we tend to like most, without giving the other side true consideration and thought.
An open-minded person will suspend his decision before hearing both sides of the story—supported with evidence, of course.
6. You get feedback from other people
An open-minded person is willing to get feedback from other people. Be it at home or in the office, an open-minded person is willing to listen because he knows his impact on the lives of people around him.
Feedback does not always have to be about you. For example, some employees may have feedback that their work is becoming unbearable—that they need a better A/C because the temperature is not conducive to working.
A closed-minded person will say it is unnecessary, while an open-minded person will listen, investigate, and take action.
7. You explore many things to understand them and apply what you learned
An open-minded person is not afraid to explore new territories with the hopes of learning something. For example, you are curious about how people work at the hospital, even if you do not belong to the medical industry.
As such, you can see opportunities there. For example, you may realize that some hospitals still use traditional paper documents to log information about a patient’s history and billing. However, if you are an open-minded software engineer, you know this is an opportunity to make a program to help the hospital transition into the digital age.
8. You tolerate the differences between people
Each person holds on to their values, one of the things that make the person unique and principled. However, that does not mean you should hate people for what they are or who they are, especially if they are not hurting anyone.
An open-minded person accepts people—gay, lesbian, Muslim, black, Hispanic—it does not matter. Tolerance indicates that you understand why not all people can be what you want them to be.
9. You acknowledge if you need to change for the better
Open-minded people know how to change themselves to make themselves better, not worse. For example, let us say that you have a drinking problem.
Close-minded people would typically say that it is not anyone’s business and that all these talks about liber cancer are nonsense. An open-minded person sees things differently—he understands what the medical data shows and acts on them, knowing that he is in peril if he continues with this habit.
10. You are willing to make compromises
Only children are not willing to make compromises. In their mind, they should get what they want, all because they want it.
An open-minded person understands that life is not a bed of roses. Sometimes, one has to give way to others or make compromises so everyone is happy.
For example, you want an SUV, but your wife wants to travel. Since money is finite, perhaps both of you agree that you will buy a less expensive car and use the remaining funds to go somewhere.
11. You are okay that different people have different lifestyles
In the free world, we have an open-minded policy of letting each other live the lifestyles we want to live, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone else.
This wasn’t always the case. In the past, people were widely discriminated against due to their religion, who they associate with, their lifestyles, or their political views.
Today, we’re blessed to inherit a world where differences are respected. Even if you don’t want to participate in other people’s way of life, you are open-minded enough to be okay with them sharing a society with you, so long as you’re polite and kind to one another.
12. You’re okay if others disagree with you
Some people see the world as black-and-white. Either you’re right, or you’re wrong. But this is a world full of shades of grey.
For example, in debates about economic policy, we often have two schools of thought: lower taxes to stimulate the economy, or increase taxes to spread the wealth. Both schools of thought have pros and cons.
While closed-minded people will look at their opponent and call them ‘evil’ or ‘flat-out wrong’, open-minded people will acknowledge that their opponent’s views have some valid points, even if those points don’t win you over. You don’t have to think they’re evil just because you disagree on an entirely subjective issue.
13. You try out local customs when you travel
Traveling can often challenge how open-minded we really are. When you come across a cuisine or custom in another culture, your response might reveal how open-minded you are.
For example, you might see someone else eating an organ of an animal (like a chicken leg, or cow liver) and be absolutely disgusted.
An open-minded response would be to say “wow! Not sure I’d eat it … but that’s really interesting! Tell me more!”
A closed-minded or ethnocentric response would be to say “Yuck! You people are savages! I can’t wait to get home to my culture. We do things the right way.”
14. You appreciate diversity
Open-minded people tend to be okay with living amongst diverse people who aren’t like them. For example, they are probably more okay with multiculturalism than closed-minded people.
This is because open-minded people are better at seeing the world from other perspectives. They can empathize with the person down the street who’s of a different religion or speaks a different language. In fact, they might focus more on the positives (‘they have a really interesting approach to problem solving’ or ‘their perspective on education has really made me think’) rather than the negatives (‘their food smells funny’).
15. You aren’t stubbornly glued to your opinions
Open-minded people change their minds when new information is presented to them. In fact, this is a trait of the scientific method: if you’re proven wrong, be happy about it – it means you’re about to learn something new!
By contrast, closed-minded people will often refuse to admit they’re wrong even if mountains of evidence are presented to them. This is common, for example, in politics, when fans of a certain candidate know the candidate is flawed but ignore it and follow him regardless just because they don’t want to be seen to be flip-floppers.
Open-mindedness takes you to another world—a world of knowledge and, more importantly, wisdom. You may not like the decision of other people, but then you have what it takes to see things from their perspective.
Open-mindedness is the key to happiness. It makes you less argumentative and more tolerant. Soon, you will find yourself with lesser and lesser emotional baggage than most people, and only then will you be truly happy.
Dr. Chris Drew is the founder of the Helpful Professor. He holds a PhD in education and has published over 20 articles in scholarly journals. He is the former editor of the Journal of Learning Development in Higher Education.