Do you consider yourself an open-minded person? Most people would say yes. Such an answer, paradoxically, demonstrates a narrow-mindedness, as you refuse to admit your shortcomings.
Narrow-mindedness is manifested in the inability to accept a variety of ideas or opinions. It’s easy to see this in other people, but each of us has had a history of being biased on different issues and topics. How to define and manage this behavior, how to move from narrow-mindedness to broader thinking?
Signs of narrow-mindedness
There are many forms of narrow-mindedness. The most extreme are religious fundamentalism, xenophobia, homophobia and misogyny. But narrow-mindedness is more prevalent than many believe. It hides in the corners of our deepest inner beliefs, cultural values and interpersonal judgments. Each time we make a judgment based on internal mental models, universal rules, or first impressions, we are narrow-minded.
Narrow-mindedness is rooted in fear: the fear of being wrong, the fear of the unknown, the fear of change. Broader views and new ideas can be confusing. To constantly adjust your worldview, you need to make more effort than to simply adhere to already established opinions. Being open-minded means accepting the complexity of the world, and that in itself can be so daunting that we prefer to stay in the comfort zone of simple – sometimes trivial – beliefs.
Dunning-Kruger effect is a common in narrow-minded people. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a type of cognitive bias in which people believe that they are smarter and more capable than they really are.
So how do you identify it in ourselves and others?
There are seven key hallmarks characteristic of narrow-mindedness. They were identified by a self.made billionaire Ray Dalio in his book Principles.
Go through the list and honestly answer the questions: Do you behave in this way sometimes? What topics or situations trigger this behavior?
- You don’t want your ideas to be challenged. Closed-minded people are more interested in being right than in studying other people’s views and asking questions. You feel bad if you do something wrong, and you get upset if you can’t get someone to agree with you.
- You assert more often than you ask questions. Open minded people tend to ask a lot of questions.
- You focus on being understood, not on understanding others. Narrow-minded people, when someone disagrees with them, often think that they do not understand it, and not that they themselves do not understand the point of view of another person.
- You say, “I could be wrong, but …” Ray Dalio calls it “a careless gesture that allows people to hold their own opinion, convincing themselves that they have a broad outlook.”
- You prevent others from speaking. Narrow- mind people do not allow others to express their opinion.
- It is difficult for you to keep two thoughts in your head at the same time. It is usually easy for open minded people to keep several conflicting concepts in mind and move from one to the other.
- You lack a deep sense of humility. Of course, many people consider themselves modest. But often our ego gets in the way of our thinking. Humility comes from experiences of failure, and narrow minded people try to avoid it by sticking to what they think they know.
Of course, it is unlikely that a person consistently exhibit all seven signs of narrow-mindedness. If that were the case, you would hardly be reading this article now. But these criteria help to detect the narrowness of thinking in yourself and in other people in certain situations or when discussing specific topics.
Benefits of an open mind
Being open to new ideas takes constant effort, but it’s worth it. For example, a research shows that open-mindedness affects mood and makes us more creative. People with an open mind are more curious, creative and motivated to explore the world and seize new opportunities.
It’s not hard to imagine why: Open-mindedness breeds curiosity, which in turn enables the ability to make more powerful creative contributions. Open-minded people tend to devote more time and space for self-reflection and interesting questions. Finally, open minded people are less prone to fear of failure. The creative process is always learning by trial and error, which means that you have to go through many failures to achieve the desired result.
Broad-mindedness is also associated with higher cognitive ability. We don’t know if broad-mindedness makes you smarter, or vice versa, but the two seem to go hand in hand.
There is no doubt that an open mind is better from the point of view of creativity and knowledge. So how can you encourage it in yourself and in others?
How to cultivate an open mind
A good way to cultivate an open mind is to look at the seven key attributes of narrow mind identified by Dalio and develop counter strategies.
- Manage your emotions. Don’t get angry when someone disagrees with you. Realize that there is always the possibility that you are wrong, and it is worth considering the other person’s opinion to make sure that you are not missing anything.
- Ask a lot of questions. Asking questions is one of the best ways to learn. Try to keep them as open as possible so that the other person has enough flexibility in answering.
- Use the two minute rule. Ray Dalio recommends giving the other person at least two minutes to express their point of view, and then express themselves. The longer the better.
- Listen. When discussing a question with someone, listen carefully to the other person. Don’t start forming an answer in your head until they’ve finished speaking.
- Be as much informed as possible. What grows in your mental garden depends a lot on the seeds you plant. Use content from different sources so you can compare different opinions, rather than sticking to the default views.
Moving from narrow to open thinking is a constant effort. Chances are, you’ll often find yourself thinking narrowly, and that’s okay. The first step is to acknowledge your natural fear of mistakes and try to change your behavior by noticing that you are showing bias.
Reference: Ray Dalio, “Principles”