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The importance of being open-minded

Over the weekend, I engaged in a very intelligent debate with my sister over a topic that was so mind-boggling and world-changing that I forgot what it was. However, during the argument, I realized that whenever I tried to defend my stance, my sister would interrupt me or talk over me and not listen to a word that I had to say.

She didn’t have an open mind during our conversation and was unwilling to see another point of view.

Refusal to open one’s mind to new possibilities and new perspectives might be okay if it is contained to pointless debates like the one my sister and I had, but, sadly, this is not the case in today’s world.

Arguments pop up in almost all facets of life, ranging from politics to sports, and there will always be people who want to remain set in their beliefs and ways, refusing to try to see things from another point of view or understand another’s way of thinking.

One of the main problems with this is that people learn from people. Children adopt behaviors from their parents, friends sometimes trade behaviors and mindsets, and younger siblings look up to their older brothers and sisters for actions and advice.

If close-mindedness is a constant in your life, then you could be unintentionally teaching other people to be close-minded to other ways of thinking. When one is not open-minded in a debate, he or she could come off as rude or ignorant, and that in itself could spark a more aggressive or violent feud.

It’s a nasty flow that can only be broken when we allow ourselves to open our minds to listening to other people and trying to understand where they are coming from. We don’t have to agree with them; we just have to listen.

That alone is a common misperception about open-mindedness. Just because you are listening to someone else’s reasoning and trying to understand their beliefs, that does not in any way, shape or form mean you have to completely change or sacrifice your own opinions. You may find that your stances can be shifted or altered, but open-mindedness does not demand change.

In psychology, there is a term called “infrahumanization,” which refers to the phenomenon where people tend to perceive people in out-groups as being less human than those in the in-group.

Infrahumanization and open-mindedness connect in their ability to make other people feel not as important from completely disregarding their opinions, feelings and ideas.

But the bottom line is that we’re all human. We may come from different backgrounds, have different skin colors, and have different religious and political views from one another, but all of our opinions matter, and none of them deserve to be shut down before they’re even heard.

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