How to Be Open Minded: Always Seek the Truth

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform summary of "Principles: Life and Work" by Ray Dalio. Shortform has the world's best summaries of books you should be reading.

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Are you looking for ways to learn how to be open minded? How can being open minded help you be more successful?

Learning how to be open minded is an ongoing process. You can work toward being open minded by following these tactics.

Keep reading to find out how to be open minded at work and in life.

How to Be Open Minded

Chart yourself on two dimensions: 1) humility and open-mindedness, and 2) mental maps, or what you know and how you reason.

Many people have low values for both, and they remain trapped there. They know little, yet they are convinced they know everything. (Shortform note: This is similar to the Dunning-Kruger effect, a cognitive bias where people who are bad at something are incapable of recognizing how bad they are.)

The other quadrants are also suboptimal. If you have high open-mindedness but poor mental maps, you will have problems picking the right people and ideas to follow. But you need to work through this in order to learn how to be open minded.

If you have good mental maps but low humility, you miss out on better ideas, and you leave a lot of value on the table. You can stop this by learning how to be more open minded.

Hallmarks of Close-Minded People

Unfortunately, many people are close-minded, and they aggressively seek to close themselves off to better ideas. These people struggle to learn how to be more open minded. Here are characteristic behaviors of close-minded people:

  • They get angry when someone disagrees with them.
  • They want to be proven right more than they want to learn other perspectives.
  • They make statements more than they ask questions.
    • Deceptively, some close-minded people make low-confidence statements like “I could be wrong, but…” They’re trying to signal open mindedness, but really they’ve already entrenched around their opinion. Keep this in mind when you’re trying to learn how to be open minded.
  • They’re unable to hold multiple points of view simultaneously in their minds. They can only process one viewpoint at once, and often they hang onto their own viewpoint the strongest.
  • They find it embarrassing not to know something. They tend to be more concerned with appearances.

In contrast, open-minded people behave in exactly the opposite ways. They welcome when other people disagree with them; they ask thoughtful questions; they openly admit when they don’t know something and show an eagerness to learn. When you seek ways to figure out how to be more open minded, remember to ask questions.

Addressing Common Issues

Some people worry that seeking ideas from other people means losing assertiveness. This is totally false. In reality, getting ideas from others will make you right more often; in turn, being right more often will make you more confident.  This is one tactic for how to become open minded.

Some people try to learn how to be open minded, but in reality, they’ve already made up their mind before they seek outside opinions. Then, they simply gather information to confirm their prior opinion, instead of opening it up for change. Do NOT settle on an opinion before getting information.

Some people hesitate to get other opinions, saying, “I want to make up my own mind.” This is foolhardy—opposing views shouldn’t threaten your ability to decide independently. It can only make you more accurate and give you more options to make up your own mind.

Learn How to Be Open Minded: Tactics of Radical Open Mindedness

When accepting viewpoints from others, suspend your judgment and empathize with their viewpoint. Do not punish others for speaking their mind, like criticizing or mocking them. Make clear you want to understand their perspective and aren’t trying to prove them wrong. After all, they have their own egos to contend with.

Recognize when you’re being close-minded. You’ll feel tense, reactive, and emotional. Use this to trigger responses of calming down and slowing down. While this is difficult at first, practice this over time and it will become a habit, and will help you practice how to become open minded.

Review instances when you made mistakes because you had incomplete information or suffered from blind spots.

Before making a decision, ask yourself, “Can I point to clear facts leading to my view?” If not, you’re merely trusting your gut, which is unlikely to be correct.

Now that you’ve learned top tactics for how to become open minded, you can apply these to your work and life.

How to Be Open Minded: Always Seek the Truth

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