I believe there are multiple parts to being open-minded. The first is not being judgmental, which encompasses avoiding putting labels on people or putting them down because they are different. The second would be giving people the benefit of the doubt and not being so quick to assume what their intensions might be or what they are going to say or do. A third is to not be so set in your ways and how you view the world around you.
Unfortunately, I think we live in a society that breeds people being judgmental. Many people are too quick to form opinions of people and situations without really getting to know the person or the facts pertaining to the situation. We’re quick to not only form an opinion but also express it, and sometimes we are being overly critical. We should be embracing people’s differences rather than making people feel they need to fit a certain mold. There are plenty of people I know who could stand to be a little (or a lot) less critical of others when maybe that person made a poor choice that didn’t really harm anyone.
Giving people the benefit of the doubt is difficult for many people, especially if they are more of a pessimist and tend to look for negatives. Assuming the worst in people is a hard mentality to break, particularly if you have had numerous negative experiences with others and have formed some very negative opinions of particular people, a particular group of people (the opposite sex, for example), people in general, or the world in general. Even when that’s not the case though, it is sometimes difficult to not make a negative assumption of what someone is trying to say or do. When you expect people to let you down or do the wrong thing, that is often what happens. It is always better to listen and give people a chance. This is something I am not always good at with a few particular people in my life who have disappointed me previously. Being more optimistic and open-minded isn’t all there is to it in every circumstance, but it might help the relationship or situation from getting worse.
The people I know who are quick to form opinions are sometimes the same people who are reluctant to change their opinions once they are formed, even after they have learned new information. Perhaps they are stubborn and/or don’t like to admit they are wrong. I think this is a contributing factor to being set in your ways. Another part of it is understanding that we were all raised differently with different experiences, values (or lack of, in some cases), expectations of our roles and how people should treat each other, and so on. Many people have a certain expectation of how their marriage will be, based on what their parents’ marriage was like. If your spouse was raised in a very different environment, then there are bound to be obstacles to overcome, many of which may have to do with expectations of each other that are different. If you are set in your ways and don’t realize that your parents’ viewpoints or the way you were raised aren’t the only way, then you may have difficulty making compromises or working as a team to navigate through life together. If you are not open to trying new things or doing things differently than you have in the past, that can make things difficult as well.
The bottom line is that the more open-minded we can be about people, situations, expectations, ways of doing things, other people’s opinions, the other side of the story, the way people look, the way people think and feel, and so many other things, the better chance we have of getting along and making a positive impact to the world around us.
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