Having an open mind has never been more important. In these days of rapid cultural change, political divisiveness and world tensions, having an open mind and an open heart are critical for navigating the waters of uncertainty, fear, and misinformation. Almost everyone likes to believe that they are open-minded and that it is others who are closed-minded.  We tend to see people with more liberal values as more open-minded and people with more conservative values as closed-minded, but this is not always true.

 

So, what does it mean to be open-minded?  Being open-minded, at its core, is the willingness to listen to someone who has another perspective and really consider their ideas, feelings, and perceptions.  You may or may not end up agreeing with the other person, but you do your best to see what the world looks like from their perspective, values and life experiences.  When we are open-minded, we acknowledge the validity of other ways of viewing and handling situations while retaining our right and ability to form our own opinions and live our lives according to our own values.

 

In general, open-mindedness is the term we apply to people whose attitudes allow them to accept change and appreciate those who are different from us.  For example, today, attitudes about lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people have evolved considerably in the direction of openness and acceptance for most Americans, but many people remain firm in their rejection of people who are not heterosexual. For others, the challenge is to accept people in our families, especially younger people, who sense of fashion leads them to sport multiple tattoos and piercings.

 

The unfamiliar is understandably threatening to many people and lack of understanding often breeds fear. Fear is frequently the underlying basis of being closed-minded.  Even so, fear is not always irrational. Shying away from those people or situations we perceive as chaotic or dangerous can be an appropriate decision in some situations.  Sometimes what we view as closed-mindedness may simply be someone’s carefully considered belief about a person or situation that is out of their comfort zone.  Concepts of open- or closed-mindedness are not quite as simple and straightforward as they might initially seem.

 

  • How do you define the difference between being open-minded and having a “closed” mind?
  • Do you feel that you are an open-minded person? Are there issues that you do not feel open-minded about?
  • Share an experience in which you began with an attitude of closed-mindedness and began to feel more open-minded about the subject at a later point in time.
  • Share an experience or issue where you began with an open mind and shifted in a decidedly more closed or decisive direction. Is having a closed mind about certain issues always the same as being judgmental? Is it always a flaw or it is sometimes beneficial?