The term "open-minded" has been used a lot in the last several decades. As we (hopefully) become further enlightened as a society, and move from tolerance to some form of acceptance of peoples' differences, being open-minded seems to follow the natural order of things. But how open-minded are we really, or is it just one of those pop-psychology terms we like to throw around but tend to not reflect in our behaviour? Being open-minded to the people and situations in our lives can be extremely helpful in furthering our personal growth as well as strengthening our existing relationships, but as humans, we tend to resist change, get more set in our ways as we age, and can let our egos (fear) get the best of us at times. In the dating world especially, keeping an open mind is extremely important, yet very difficult to maintain if we're constantly repeating the same patterns, or if we're afraid of trying something new. But don't the most authentic and meaningful connections happen when we disarm and let each other be who we are?
Reminders for Staying Open-Minded
1. Look Beneath the Surface. This could be as simple as recognizing that a person is shy during your initial encounter, and that there is much more below the surface. Some people need a bit of a chance to show themselves. Try not to get wrapped up in your reaction to how someone makes YOU feel (as this is often your own baggage), but instead focus on the other person. We're all complex people with many layers, and patience can uncover some wonderful things.
2. Stop Needing To Be Right. Just because you believe you're right doesn't actually mean you are. Being right is highly subjective; life is not always black and white, but many shades of grey. Once you give up the need to be right, you open yourself up to other opinions and personal growth. Everyone has a right to their own opinions, but that doesn't make us any more right than anyone else...
3. Respect Our Differences. Everyone has a different life experience, different parents, different situations and therefore different beliefs and attitudes. To a certain extent, our past experiences shape who we are, and therefore we cannot expect everyone to be like us - it's simply impossible. Everyone is as equally important and unique as you are on this earth.
4. Walk in Their Shoes. In order to really stay open-minded, it helps to put yourself in someone else's place. Imagine having someone else's life and how you would have been affected - this is true empathy, which is not an easy characteristic to maintain in such a "self" oriented world. This is where compassion comes from, and compassion brings out the best in most people, whether you're giving it or receiving it.
5. Try something new. When we're stuck in our ways, we're no good to anyone, including ourselves. Having an open mind means taking a chance on something you're not 100% sure on (within reason), and therefore opening yourself up to exploring a part of you that may have been laying dormant. Expansion and enlightenment are what keeps like interesting, and what keeps us growing as people.
It is possible to be too open-minded, and not following our own instincts. It's important to understand our boundaries, and to know when it's ok to push them. It's not a good idea however, to let another person take control of your life. We must take what we can from new situations and people, trying not to judge, and then using the best parts to enrich our lives.
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