Being truly open-minded is uncomfortable shit. It doesn’t just mean being open to new ideas. It’s not exclusive to a set of political beliefs or certain lifestyles, no matter how much we like to think so. It’s not just being willing to be wrong, but according to the intelligent motherfuckers at Penn University, it means actively looking for evidence that you might be.
Keeping an open mind means grappling with the fact that your experience may not have best informed you. That is some hard shit to do, but allowing for your mind to change will keep you from becoming a stagnant piece of shit who thinks they fucking know everything. An open mind cultivates critical thinking, rationality, logic, love, and compassion. An open mind will be the lantern that illuminates the dark paths you face in life.
Ah, we love a good antonym (like phallic and yonic). The opposite of open-mindedness is myside bias, in which we search for and evaluate evidence to fortify our beliefs. We’ve all done it, or at least seen it unfold in real-time in the delightfully unhinged land of Facebook comments.
In a 2003 study published in Applied American Psychology, 112 undergrads were asked to generate arguments for and against three separate issues. The students generated more arguments that supported their preconceived beliefs around each issue than arguments for the other side. While intelligence was not a factor in the myside bias, grade level was: the longer a participant had been in college, the less myside bias they displayed. Wild shit, huh!?
The same study found that intelligence is not a predictor of myside bias. So, you can be smart as fuck, the most intelligent person in a room, and still have a severe case of myside bias if you are unpracticed in having an open mind.
But like, why?
What’s the point of having an open mind, you ask? Besides not being a dipshit, exercising an open mind makes you a better communicator in conflict, generates creativity, and leaves you open to relationships with greater depth. Back to the smart mother fuckers at Penn. According to them, research suggests that people who are open-minded are:
- Less swayed by a singular event and are more resistant to manipulation.
- Project less onto others.
- Score better on cognitive ability tests.
But like, how?
If you’re reading this and thinking, “But I am a close-minded little bitch! How do I crack open the vast expanse that is my mind?” Fear not; there are small things you can do every day to make sure your brain doesn’t calcify with rigid, unchallenged beliefs.
This one might seem obvious, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention it: Fucking. Read. Books, not screens. Fiction or non-fiction, books transport us into another point of view.
And if you disagree with the author’s point of view, great, you’re already past go.
Pick a regarded book on a topic you feel strongly about written from the opposition’s point of view. Finish it. Take notes on any points you thought were well-made, whether you agree with them or not.
Really listening is fucking hard. We usually wait for our turn to talk or anticipate the slightest pause to jump in. Listen without thinking, without letting the spools in your mind turn, looking for relevant nobs to tie a thread to in what is being said.
We tend not to ask each other a lot of questions about our lives or our beliefs. If you ask a question out of genuine curiosity, most people are thrilled to answer in it in the spirit it was asked. The root of all questions are: who, what, when, where, why, and how. Challenge yourself to ask questions vs making statements. Repeat what someone just said and follow with a question.
People usually have good intentions, whether you think they are pieces of dog shit or not. Most people are trying to do what they feel is right. Even crazed religious zealots are usually doing what they feel is right. It doesn't make it right, and it doesn't mean you don't need boundaries, but maintaining an empathetic mindset will help you understand how the fuck people could behave in certain ways.
Doing all of the shit above might lead you to change your mind, and that is a rare and beautiful thing.