We might think we’re progressive, forward-thinking and open-minded. But the truth is, many of us aren’t as open-minded as we’d like. And that’s fine if you live in a bubble. But most of us don’t. Instead, we have to interact, cooperate and compromise with other people every single day. And having an open mind is essential if we want to coexist in a peaceful way.

Why it’s hard to have an open mind

When we talk about something that’s important to us, like politics, diet, lifestyle or spirituality, for example, it’s usually not a casual, objective discussion.

That’s because we strongly identify with these topics. In short, these beliefs systems and values define who we are. 

Here’s why that’s problematic.

When we hear an idea that challenges or contradicts our own ideas, it’s not just that the idea itself is threatened. It’s that you feel threatened and attacked.

But we can avoid feeling threatened – and therefore emotionally charged and super defensive – when we develop awareness. 

Awareness of what? You might be asking

Awareness of your emotions. After all, it’s natural to feel threatened and defensive when something you hold dear is challenged. 

But that doesn’t mean we should let this response go haywire. Instead, when this happens, move through this simple checklist:

  • Observe your emotional response, and simple say: Huh, that’s interesting. 
  • Then, remember that you are still you, and that you are still safe, even if there’s a contradicting idea or belief.
  • Finally, remember that your mind is totally capable of thinking about an opposing thought – even if you don’t agree with it.

When we can become more aware of ourselves and our emotional reactions, we are one step closer to having a more open mind. And this can help us engage with people with greater freedom and ease. 

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