Being open-minded is a cute sentiment. Like, who's gonna want to be less open-minded? Am I right? But figuring out how to be open-minded isn't as simple as it might appear.
Lucky for you, class is in session, and today's lesson is How to be Open-Minded 101.
Step 1: Define your Terms
Before we figure out how to be open-minded, let's take a look at some definitions.
A quick googling just told me that open-minded means two things. Thing 1: willing to consider new ideas. Thing 2: unprejudiced.
Here's the thing. Thing 3? These two definitions are definitely not the same.
If we want to be thing 1 and thing 2 open-minded, we need to be willing to consider new ideas and also not be prejudiced.
Another quick googling tells me that unprejudiced means not having a dislike or distrust based on a preconceived idea.
So, if we're going to be open-minded, we have to do something to keep our preconceived ideas in check. I'm not saying we can't have preconceived ideas. We all do, consciously or unconsciously.
That's not the point. The point really is to be aware of our biases and preconceived notions, so we can be open to new ideas, experiences, and people anyway.
The way to do this is to control your judgment. Oh boy, another word to google.
It turns out judgment has a heap-lot of definitions, but the one I'm talking about is opinion or conclusion.
If we're going to have a fighting chance of answering how to be open-minded, we've got to work on reducing our baseless opinions and conclusions. It's okay to reach a conclusion once you've collected enough data, but the problem with judgment is when it happens without much evidence at all.
Let's have an example. Let's say you're meeting your friend's new boyfriend. When he shakes your hand, you immediately recoil because of his soggy, limp handshake. For the rest of the night, you can't stop thinking about how lame and awful he is.
This is the kind of judgment that for sure stops us from being open-minded.
Okay, let's talk about it.
Step 2: Stop your Judgment
A super wise woman by the name of Viola Spolin once had a lot of super wise things to say about judgment. Spolin is the godmother of theatrical improvisation as we now know it. One of the rules in improv is that we can't judge our fellow improvisers.
Why not? Because when we do, we miss out on potentially great contributions they're bringing to the scene. This is doubly bad in improv because when your scene partner looks bad, so do you.
So Spolin said that we should work to remove judgment when we're improvising. This means no good judgment and no bad judgment.
When someone puts themselves in the role of judge, the other players start to play for the approval of that judge. They want to make the judge happy.
So judgment prevents us from playing for the sake of playing, for the love of the game.
This happens in real life, too. When someone is judgmental, people in their orbit become concerned about whether or not they will get approval from that person. This stops them from being themselves.
So if we want to be open-minded, we have to do something about our judgment.
For me, this just means I try to reserve my opinions and conclusions until I've spent a shit-ton of time with an idea or person or experience. I'm not always successful. Sometimes I fail and get judgmental right away.
But hey, I'm trying.
Sometimes I'm able to reserve my judgment, which means I'm much more open-minded and people can enjoy being around me for the sake of being around me, not to win my approval.
Because who wants my approval anyway?
Step 3: Play your Way Sane
I wish it were as easy as just telling yourself to be less judgmental, but, unfortunately, it's not.
That's why I developed a whole system for people to become more mindful, joyous, and connected.
After writing the first academic book explaining the cognitive benefits of improvisation, I wasn't feeling any more mindful, joyous, or connected, so I took what I'd learned about improv and created twelve lessons. In each lesson, I developed ten everyday games people can play as they go about their days. These games are how you can play your way sane.
Lesson 5 is called Thou Shalt not be Judgy, and it's all about getting your opinions and conclusions in check.
Here are six everyday games that will help you be more open-minded.
1. I Got Your Back
Want to be open-minded? Instead of jumping to conclusions, literally tell people that you have their back. And then follow through.
Or at least make it a mantra. Instead of writing off your friend's sweaty new beau, tell yourself that you have his back. That you are on his side.
And see what happens.
2. Try Something Else not Judgy
You need to catch yourself in the act. The next time you catch yourself being judgmental, pause and replace that judgmental thought with a different thought.
Keep replacing your thoughts until you land on a nonjudgmental one.
Because knowing is half the battle.
3. Just Ask
Instead of jumping to conclusions, you can also just ask. Poor sweaty hands McGee might be amazing, but you won't find out unless you ask him some questions and find out more.
So just ask.
4. Curious Detective
I like playing make-pretend, and this next game is very make-pretendy.
To be more open-minded just pretend you're a detective. Detectives are super cool because they don't jump to conclusions. They gather all the evidence before making up their minds.
So yeah, be like that.
5. How do you Know?
I also ask myself, "How do you know?" when I catch myself being judgmental. Let's go back to sweaty McGillicuddy once again.
Instead of spending the night ruminating on how much you hate your friend's man, ask yourself how you know he's awful. If your only evidence is that he has sweaty hands, do some more digging.
I have extremely sweaty hands.
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