Some people spend their entire lives repeating the same mistakes over and over again. They fail to make any substantial progress in their personal or professional lives while other people seem to be on a constant and continual progress that takes them from success to even more success.
This of course cannot be attributed to one unique factor, but researchers have noticed that the mindset by which people approach challenges is signicantly different between the 2 groups.
The first group of people who seem to continually succeed are open-minded - they show an eagerness to learn from others, embrace new ideas and can admit when they’re wrong. The second group are closed-minded - they are stubborn, believe they know the answer and can’t even consider the possibility that they’ve gotten something wrong.
The way each group approaches challenges and obstacles in life is what separates them, and you may be surprised to learn that closed-minded people are often the ones who believe they are open-minded.
In fact, this is what makes closed-minded people so dangerous. They have learned that open-mindedness is a desirable attribute, and have embraced it in the way closed-minded people embrace anything in their life. They stubbornly believe it and would rather die than admit they are closed-minded.
In his book “Principles”, Ray Dalio, self-made billionaire and founder of the world’s largest hedge fund, lays out 7 powerful ways you can figure out whether you are open minded.
1. Open-minded people are curious about why the other person disagrees with them
Closed-minded people are typically frustrated that they can’t get the other person to agree with them instead of curious as to why the other person disagrees. Open-minded people understand that there is always the possibility that they might be wrong and that it’s worth the little bit of time it takes to consider the other person’s views.
What happens when you disagree with someone? Do they immediately try to rephrase what they’ve said to change your mind, or do they listen to you to find out why you disagree?
When someone repeats what they’ve just said, even if in different words, it means they assume you don’t understand them, rather than simply disagree with them.
On the other hand, open-minded people feel compelled to see the world from other people’s perspectives. When you disagree with them, they’ll quickly assume it is them that doesn’t understand something and will explore with you where that disagreement stems from and seize on the opportunity to learn and expand their knowledge.
2. Closed-minded people are more likely to make statements than ask questions. Open-minded people genuinely believe they could be wrong, the questions they ask are genuine.
Closed-minded people will quickly tell you what they think about something, rather than asking you what you think.
You can recognize them because they often make statements and offer their opinions. Think of the last group meeting you attended. Were the people who were speaking making statements and sharing their opinions, or asking questions to learn from others?
Open-minded people know that while they may know a good amount about a topic, it could count for less than someone else’s. Maybe they’re outside their circle of competence or maybe they’re experts. Regardless, they’re always curious as to how people see things differently and they weigh their opinions accordingly.
3. Closed-minded people have trouble holding two thoughts at the same time
As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and retain the ability to still function.”
It’s in our nature to close our minds to new possibilities. If our brains took in all of the information available to our senses, we would literally go insane.
We need to operate using concepts, which filters new information that may be helpful to us in coming up with new ideas.
Open-minded people, however, are better at taking in the thoughts of others while also having their own thoughts. They’ll hold multiple thoughts at the same time while considering which is most useful.
4. Closed-minded people block others from speaking
They’re more interested in speaking than listening, and don’t want to hear anyone’s voices but their own.
Dalio says he has a “two-minute rule” to get around this: everyone can speak for at least two minutes without being interrupted.
Open-minded people, on the other hand, are always more interested in listening than in speaking. They even take the time to encourage people to speak up so they can learn more from others.
5. Closed-minded people often say “I might be wrong, but…”
Here’s what Dalio has to say about this:
“Closed-minded people say things like ‘I could be wrong … but here’s my opinion.’ This is a classic cue I hear all the time. It’s often a perfunctory gesture that allows people to hold their own opinion while convincing themselves that they are being open-minded. If your statement starts with ‘I could be wrong’…, you should probably follow it with a question and not an assertion.
“Open-minded people know when to make statements and when to ask questions.”
6. Open-minded people see disagreement as a thoughtful means to expand their knowledge
Closed-minded people don’t want their idea to be challenged. They’ll often be frustrated that the other person doesn’t immediately embrace their idea rather than show curiosity about why they disagree.
Open-minded people are more curious about why there may be disagreement and will see this as an opportunity to improve their ideas. They know there’s always the possibility they may be wrong and that it’s worth taking some extra time to learn more about the other person’s views.
7. Open-minded people are humble
This for me is the most important point. Closed-minded people lack a deep sense of humility.
Where do people get humility from? Usually it comes from failure. From crashing so badly they don’t want to repeat it.
Closed-minded people have trouble seeing that they’ve failed. They justify their actions and usually blame external circumstances, or other people, for what happened.
Open-minded people approach everything with a deep-seated fear they may be wrong. Fear is their strength. It results in humility.
Do you recognize some of the qualities of closed-minded people in yourself? If you do, don’t beat yourself up. Being able to question yourself and recalibrate is a great sign and shows you are relatively open-minded.
Also, keep in mind there is sometimes wisdom in closed-mindedness. You can’t be open to everything. If someone presents a business opportunity that may defraud people, close your mind. By the same token, if someone wants you to do something that is unkind, it may be worth thinking twice.
Yet consider this: being open-minded is an active process. It’s not something that can be achieved.
You need to cultivate the attributes of open-mindedness over time. Questioning yourself, listening to and learning from others is the path to living a successful life.
Check out Ray Dalio’s book on Amazon: