People ask me why I moved from Iowa to New Jersey. I did it in part because I knew that compared to Iowa, New Jersey is far more diverse in economic strata, religious affiliations, ethnic backgrounds, careers, cultures, customs, native languages, foods, clothing styles, values and traditions.
I have not been disappointed in that regard. I have found it exhilarating to be regularly challenged by so many different points of view and by people whose life experiences are so different from my own.
What do you do when exposed to new points of view?
Do you look at as an opportunity to learn something new? Do you eagerly ask questions to help your understanding? Or, do you throw up the barricades to protect yourself from a challenge to your way of thinking? Do you furiously marshal your arguments, ordering them into strategic position so that they can return fire at the first opening?
The funny thing is, when we willingly consume new information, we can actually strengthen our existing beliefs and reinforce our understanding of who we are and who we want to become. When we can listen openly and honestly to new information, without judgment or bias or emotion, we are rewarded with greater confidence and self-esteem.
It’s paradoxical, but the more we choose to interact with people who are different from us, the more open we become to hearing ideas that challenge our assumptions. The more we learn, the more we grow.
The truth is, at times we’re all rigid in our thoughts. We choose to close our minds to a different point of view or to new information that might challenge our status quo. It’s not easy to be open-minded.
Let me share with you three things I’ve learned that help me when I am confronted with points of view that are contrary to my own and are unsettling to me.
- Say to yourself: Well, isn’t this interesting!
- Ask yourself: What can I learn from what I am hearing? How do these things fit into this person’s world?
- Instead of thinking about a rebuttal, think about questions to ask that will increase your understanding.
Approaching new information as something to be taken in opens our world to new possibilities. New friendships. New jobs. We grow and become rich with ideas and perspectives.
Life Is Honest, Open and True: The choice is ours. Becoming open-minded starts with a decision to become that way and eagerly accepting opportunities to act on our decision. When we are willing to climb the learning curve, we develop the ability to listen to contrary ideas without judging the people who hold them. We are rewarded with greater awareness and understanding of our own beliefs, and with greater confidence and self-esteem.