“A mind is like a parachute. It doesn’t work if it is not open.” ― Frank Zappa

Have you ever entered into conflict or a difficult conversation secretly knowing that you are right and the other person is wrong? If so, you’re not alone. This is something almost everyone does at some point in time. Before entering a difficult or conflict-related conversation, it is important to actively practice keeping an open mind and being curious.

What is open-mindedness and how is it practiced?

Open-mindedness is a willingness to try new things or to hear and consider new ideas and to be free from prejudice or bias.

Here are five ways to practice open-mindedness:

1.   When you hear differing opinions, fight the urge to be polarized. In the moment, pause to find the wisdom and empathy to understand that others do not hold the same opinions as you. They have different sets of life experiences and truths they are reacting to—just as you are.

2.  Avoid closing yourself off or shutting down. Welcome new ideas that are different from yours. When you’re exposed to differing opinions, try to be open to them as opportunities to discover and learn something you do not know.

3.  Know that open-mindedness happens out of your comfort zone. By its nature, open-mindedness will be uncomfortable—that is normal and okay. You are big enough to hold more than one truth. Compassion and empathy will help.

4.  Ask questionsSometimes the only way to learn more about a certain situation and keep an open mind is to ask a lot of questions to gain a better understanding. Repeat this step until you begin to understand the other perspective. It works!

5.  Avoid speculationGo out and live the experience before you form opinions about something. Rather than blindly believing or denying what someone else says, or assuming that you disagree, find out for yourself if you believe something or not. Tend towards the experiential.

In addition to taking these five steps toward open-mindedness, it’s important to practice curiosity. We often make judgments about that which does not make sense—that which we cannot get our heads around. Alternatively, when we ask questions and seek information and clarity, we learn more about where others are coming from or what they are really saying.

Be curious: What is it that you do not know about the situation? Or the person? Or the backstory? When you continue to ask questions and allow curiosity the time to gather information and uncover answers, rather than settling into anger or polarization, you will have greater insight into the other person’s perspective and you will enhance your ability to handle the conflict.

Want to learn more about keeping an open mind and having productive conversations? I share three critical steps required before having a difficult conversation in my free training “How to Prepare for Difficult Conversations”. I’ll explain how to set your intention, remove judgments that can impact the outcome and how to make sure you are defining the problem correctly.  Register here – How to Prepare for a Difficult Conversation Video Series.

Wishing you healthy and productive conversations.

“The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” ― Albert Einstein