It is Difficult to be Open-Minded, if You Don’t Listen

Many people say about themselves that they are open-minded. Sometimes, I have the feeling that this is not really true. Maybe it is ignorance. I cannot really tell. I say that, if you don’t listen, you cannot really be open-minded.

Maybe we should be more specific. In general, I am an open-minded people BUT when it comes to (insert your topic here =) ) I have rather strong opinions and it will be difficult for you to convince me otherwise. It is not optimal, but at least you and the other person know what they are dealing with.

Open-mindedness is put to a test when we come to topics we disagree with the other person. We see or listen to interviews on TV or in real life with the intention to form or strengthen our point of view. Unfortunately, it is often the latter and we already arrive with strong feelings and convictions and we are not likely to change our minds. This is true for myself from time to time. We have an opinion (conscious or unconscious) and we are looking only for evidence that support our belief. This is already the opposite of being open-minded. However, you shouldn’t beat yourself up because of this. There is too much information out there to process them all and we need to make quick assessments and generalize and simplify to not be overwhelmed. Still, it is a good thing when you are ware of those strongly hold convictions. Only then you can really ask yourself, if you are open-minded right now, and only then can you start to listen.

Another problem is that we don’t give other people the time to really understand them. If person A says something about a certain policy decision and that he favors it and you disagree with him, how much time does he/she have to explain why this person is in favor? Start with acknowledging your own ignorance. This leads to humility and this leads to a curiosity to understand without judging. I mean you can still disagree at the end. I just feel that we deny ourselves the opportunity to understand each other and to move closer together. By not listening and judging too quickly, we do the opposite and the fronts become increasingly hardened.

It is a conscious decision and your choice. The next time you hear something you disagree with, ask the other person (or try to find more information online) about their reasonings and how they came to hold this view. At least give them a chance. If you realize that you still disagree or you cannot really talk to the other person (because he/she is not open-minded and doesn’t try to understand you), then don’t do it. But again, give him/her a real chance.

If you want to be an open-minded person, accept your own ignorance, stay curious, listen, and really try to understand the other person.

Stephan

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