How to Become More Open and Accepting
Mindfulness can be used to help us improve in many areas, such as increasing our focus, growing our emotional intelligence, and managing conflict in our lives. It can also be a useful tool for changing our perspective on the world by allowing us to be more open-minded. Various principles of mindfulness, including self-awareness, maintaining a non-judgmental attitude, and practicing gratitude, lend themselves well to fostering a thoughtful, open, and welcoming perspective that can benefit individuals across the domains of their lives.
The Benefits of Open-Mindedness
When considering the benefits of open-mindedness, it’s important to reflect on how being closed off can negatively impact our lives and relationships. At work, leaders who are receptive to others can foster greater trust within their teams, form positive working relations with others, and benefit from the inputs and ideas of multiple perspectives. At home, our loved ones feel listened to, valued, and understood when their ideas or suggestions are met with an open mind. Demonstrating acceptance and non-judgment can also help us develop new relationships in all areas of life.
Openness is also associated with creativity and innovation, since it allows us to make new connections between ideas. Without open-mindedness, it’s easy to get stuck in a rut of doing the same thing each day, asking the same questions, and using the same solutions to solve our problems. However, if we take a broader approach, we can see the value of new experiences and the unique contributions that other people have to offer. In addition, fostering an environment that is welcoming and accepting of others helps them to be more open-minded in their own lives as well. Taken together, this contributes to our ability to integrate these new perspectives. It is from this place of openness that growth and development occurs.
How to Increase Your Open-Mindedness
Acknowledge Your Bias
There are a lot of negative associations with the word bias, but the truth is that every person you’ve ever met has their own personal biases, including you. Admitting to them can be difficult, but by doing so, we gain a greater understanding of ourselves and our tendencies. The first step to accepting our personal biases is to understand that they are completely normal and that they are something we can overcome.
To identify your own personal biases, think about a time where you were not open to the suggestions of others. Why? Was there anything about the way the message was presented that may have influenced your evaluation of the idea? Did it come as a surprise, or take you off guard? Did it challenge how you thought things should be done? It can be hard to recognize in the moment, but we are often biased against ideas that challenge our own input, thoughts, or suggestions. Next, think about the reaction you had. Did you think through the idea for its potential benefits, or did you focus on all the reasons why it wouldn’t work? Did you try to collaborate with the person to reach a compromise that incorporated their suggestions? By bringing awareness to these patterns of close-mindedness, you can begin to reflect on the causes and consequences of these tendencies, and use this focused attention to detect when it starts to happen again.
Engage in Self-Reflection
Now, reflect on interactions you’ve had with others at work, at home, or in your social life. Do you find yourself in conflict or disagreements about the right way to do things? Are you often challenged to consider the perspective of others? Do you find yourself changing your mind on topics you had opinions on?
Beyond understanding our biases, it’s also important to be aware of situations where you may have been more closed-off rather than open-minded. Try to spot any trends: are you more open-minded in certain contexts? Do you find it easier to take the advice of some people over others? Do environmental and personal factors, like physical discomfort, hunger, or fatigue, influence your tendency to be open-minded? Alongside a thorough understanding of our biases, a recognition of these triggers can help us avoid repeating negative patterns. It may be effortful, but with careful self-reflection, close-mindedness can be overcome.
Use Mindful Listening
One of the best ways to appreciate the ideas of others is to truly listen to their ideas, with the goal of trying to understand what they have to say, rather than judging it as good or bad, or right or wrong. Mindful listening involves taking the time to fully engage with what others are saying, ensuring we listen to both to what they say and how they say it. Remember to listen with the goal of understanding, not to judge, predict what they’ll say next, or plan your response while they’re still speaking. Often this means slowing down and not feeling rushed to jump in right when someone finishes talking. It means learning to be okay with silence, and taking a little longer to respond so that you provide others with more space to communicate.
The basis of an open-minded perspective is gratitude. It allows us to recognize and appreciate our own strengths, and understand the value of the perspectives of others. Cultivating a grateful mindset trains your brain to see things in a more positive light. This further helps foster creative, innovative thinking and positive relations with others. Consider keeping a journal where you can list the strengths of yourself and others, or jot down anything you appreciate about those around you. Over time, seeing the world with gratitude becomes engrained, and this habit can prime our automatic reactions to new ideas in the future.
How SIGMA Can Help
SIGMA offers a range of services to help you become more open and accepting with mindfulness. Check out our mindfulness offerings for more information. If you’d like to learn more about how mindfulness can benefit you, contact us today.