Four quick tips for opening your mind…this was part of farewell email that I sent to a group of young professionals that I was mentoring. My final bit of advice to them was to have the discipline to keep an open mind.
When someone does or says something that you disagree with (even if you completely abhor it), ask yourself “What would it take (experience-wise) for me to arrive at that conclusion or action? This tip came from Amos Oz’s final book, Dear Zealots: Letters from a Divided Land. Amos Oz was an important literary and cultural figure in Israel. His book talks about the Arab/Israeli conflict and the rise of fanaticism around the world. What surprised me the most was that when I initially read the title, I thought I was certain about who the “fanatics” were. Oz put me in my place by showing me that there is fanaticism in all of us. It’s when we fail to tame it that we get ourselves into trouble.
When you encounter information that “proves” you are correct about something, reverse your conclusion and look again. For example, imagine that during a job interview, you decide that the job and company would be perfect for you. Before making your final decision, reverse your assumption. Assume that the job isn’t a good fit. Then review everything you saw and heard during the interview process. You might notice things that you missed when you were trying to convince yourself that this was the right job. You might still decide it’s the right job, but you will make a much more informed decision. Here is a quick article on seeking the opposite.
Force yourself to find multiple paths to the same conclusion. Imagine that you have a really bad encounter with a cashier at a fast food restaurant. You might conclude that the person you worked with was lazy or didn’t care about their job. However, challenge yourself. Try to think of three or four other reasons for the person’s behavior. For example, maybe they just got yelled at by a rude customer. Maybe they just found out that they were being laid off at the end of the week. Maybe you inadvertently said something offensive and didn’t realize it. The more you open yourself up to the fact that there are often many paths to the same result, the more tolerant and accepting you will become of others and their ideas.
Avoid becoming a “dogmatic expert” – A dogmatic expert is a person who has internalized all of the rules and processes in their area of specialty. However, they lack flexibility to adapt to situations where the rules don’t fit into their process perfectly. In my experience, dogmatic experts whether religious or professional are the most dangerous. They are least open to listening to others and often make things worse rather than better. Here is a short article that talks about dogmatic expertise and its dangers.
Brad Kolar is an Executive Consultant, Author, and Speaker with Avail Advisors. Avail helps leaders simplify their problems, decisions, data, and communication. Contact Brad at firstname.lastname@example.org.