There are advantages and disadvantages of being open-minded, and as someone who scores high on open-mindedness, I’ve spent a lot of time researching and thinking about what it means to have an open mind.
Open-mindedness is usually associated with intelligence, creativity and adventure. Being open-minded helps with problem-solving and enables people to think multi-dimensionally about topics. In addition, open-minded people are less interested in tradition, which at times can lead to struggles with fitting in.
While open-mindedness might be something you are born with, it is also a skill that can be developed and use to one’s advantage. Simultaneously, being overly open-minded can lead to obstacles in the practical aspects of life.
If you are curious about open-mindedness, or the advantages and disadvantages of it, keep reading as we are going to break it down.
What is Open-Mindedness?
Generally speaking, having an open mind means that someone is open to new ideas and different ways of thinking about stuff. Open-minded people are also more likely to seek out ideas that they disagree with but may challenge their existing opinions.
Open-minded people are also more willing to look at both sides of an issue and use the information they find to make better decisions and choices. However, in society, we value people who stick to their convictions, and while this makes those people more predictable, it also means they might be more likely to make bad choices as they don’t look at all of the evidence.
Close-mindedness is the opposite of open-mindedness, so it is used to describe people who aren’t willing to hear alternative viewpoints or perspectives on issues. Close-minded people also tend to stick with their original data or experience and don’t explore alternative possibilities.
Given the option, having an open mind will lead to better decision-making, however, we can’t forget that different skills are adapted to different situations.
Advantages Of Being Open-Minded
There are many advantages to having an open mind, and as a person who scores high on this personality trait, I tend to agree. While being open-minded hasn’t always worked out for me regarding personal interactions and disagreements. Open-mindedness is imperative to me as someone who puts a high value on truth.
While being open-minded may make it challenging to find the truth, being open to different ways of thinking ensures that you will at least be able to find the truth. Being open-minded also has its advantages for human interactions, as being open to people helps give you access to different varieties of experiences and ways of thinking.
On top of all of this, being open-minded is often associated with intelligence; but it is difficult to know if they come together or if one causes the other.
While there are many different advantages to open-mindedness, let’s dig into some of them that I think are important.
1) Seek The Truth Rather Than The Most Popular Answer
While we are at school as students, we are encouraged to give the right answer, but the right answer isn’t always correct; instead, it is what we are taught in class. This is compounded throughout our education as we are always rewarded for our ability to remember what we are told over coming up with a unique answer by thinking for ourselves. As a result, open-mindedness isn’t a character trait that we are pushed towards as students.
As we get older, we might come to realize that the truth isn’t always the most popular answer; in fact, it is often something different. I am not trying to dispute any specific facts here but rather point out that popular beliefs are often misinformed or oversimplified explanations for complicated subjects. This means that there is usually room for exploration and a better understanding of a topic, which in time can lead to a better comprehension of the truth.
An advantage of being open-minded is that you can look at all the evidence and make the best estimate on what the truth is.
Going with what most people believe often relies on being close-minded as there isn’t much willingness to look at opposing or contradicting ideas. People who care about the truth have to look at both sides of the coin, and if you aren’t open to seeing the other side then you aren’t open to finding the truth.
2) Open To Making Mistakes
One quality of open-minded people is that they are open and willing to make mistakes, and while most people try to avoid errors, mistakes are one of the best ways to improve. When you do something wrong, you learn about your mistakes and know how to avoid them the next time.
Open-minded people are willing to look at all sides of an issue; this means that they have more experience with bad ideas or logical mistakes. This has its benefits because when you know that other people have made mistakes, it isn’t as bad if you make one too.
Open-minded people realize that getting to the truth often comes after making a few mistakes.
One of the advantages of being open-minded is that you are open to a wider range of concepts, so you are also open to the possibility of making a mistake. However, open-minded people also realize that mistakes lead to better results, as long as you learn along the way, so they don’t try to avoid them just to save face.
3) Better Able to Evolve and Change
Being open to making mistakes also means we can accept the possibility of being wrong; with an openness to being wrong, we can learn from our mistakes and make better choices and decisions in the future. Always moving forward and learning from our mistakes is the definition of evolving.
On the other hand, close-minded people don’t want to be exposed to new ideas, so they avoid them and often miss the chance to learn from their mistakes or previous wrong ways of thinking.
If it is your objective to evolve and change, then it is always important to be open-minded. Not all ideas are created equal, but if you aren’t willing to check out other ideas, you can never know which ones are the best. An advantage of being open-minded is that with exposure to lots of ideas, it is easier to find the best ones and adapt them to your habits and decision-making.
4) Openness to Different Types of People
When we talk about being open-minded, we usually refer to openness to diverse ideas, but this virtue can also be applied to people. Being open to new people means you will be open to new opportunities and all that comes with that.
When I was living in Korea, at first, I went to western bars, which were the places where most foreigners would hang out; this was fun as it was nice to hang out with people who had similar life experiences to me. However, once I got closer with my Korean co-workers, I was always hanging out with them instead.
Because of this, my experience was different from those of most other foreigners as they tended to stick with non-local people. That said, I’m sure I had a more exciting experience, and I got more emersed in the culture. I can say that my open-mindedness enabled me to have a more genuine experience because I was more open to the people around me.
An advantage of being open-minded is that you are more open to different sorts of people, which leads to experiences and thoughts that wouldn’t be possible to have otherwise.
5) Open to Different Kinds of Experience
As I mentioned above, being open to different people opened me up to experiences that most of my fellow foreigners wouldn’t have even known about. Having the opportunity to have unique and authentic experiences is the key to living a more exciting and meaningful life.
Most people seem to be drawn to consistency and sameness, which makes life easier cause if you always do the same thing, there aren’t many choices to make. But at the same time, trying out new and different things is the key to discovering what we are genuinely interested in.
Being close-minded to new experiences ensures that you will only repeat what you already know while essentially ignoring the world of unknowns.
As a kid, I hated rice, so I never wanted to eat it, but while I lived in Korea, I learnt to love it as there were so many different styles of rice and food that came with rice. The thing was that if I let my previous experiences dictate my possibilities, I would have never realized how wonderful Korean food could be. I can be confident in this as I had a co-worker who never ate Korean food while he was there, and it completely blew my mind.
Being open-minded is advantageous because it opens you up to experiences that would be impossible if you stuck to what you already knew. On top of this, as there are tons of things you’ve never tried before, there will likely be pursuits that you would like or would be good at but haven’t tried or discovered yet.
6) Your Confidence Will Be Justified
One of the advantages of being open-minded is that you can be confident in your knowledge when you have an opinion because you have looked at the different sides of the issues and chosen the best. I say this because I have smart friends who regularly say things that make sense but are also based on a complete disregard for the evidence. Even when shown the evidence, they still don’t change their mind.
It isn’t easy to know the truth about anything, but if you only look at one side, you don’t have any justification for confidence in what you believe. This might not matter for most people, as they would rather be ‘right’ than accurate about the truth.
However, if you care about the truth, you need to be sure that you are accurate and basing your opinions on the evidence. Furthermore, the only way to get to the truth is to look at all possible reasonable arguments and then decided the best, most accurate one.
This isn’t to say that you shouldn’t trust your gut or that you can’t be right with limited information; instead, it suggests that confidence can be faked or justified. If you are ok with faking it till you make it, then being open-minded might not matter. But if you care about the truth, then being open-minded has the advantage that it will allow you to find all the possibilities and then justifiably believing in the right one.
7) Less Stressed by Limited Viewpoints
When people aren’t open to different viewpoints, they are forced to think within the limited options they already know about. In other words, when you are close-minded, you are closed off from different options; the problem is, that when there doesn’t seem to be many options available, we feel stuck and that is stressful.
When thinking about this topic, the first thing that comes to mind is jobs; when I was younger and graduated from university, I had a degree but not any job-specific skills. As I started to look for a job, there wasn’t anything I wanted so I just applied to what I could find; and when I got a job, it was a horrible call center position. At that point, my life was stressful, and I had no idea what to do next. However, when my cousin suggested going to Korea, an option I hadn’t previously considered, I jumped at the opportunity, which changed my life for the better.
My point with the story is that when I thought about the jobs I could see around me, it was stressful and limiting, but once I embraced the unknown and opened my mind to the possibility of doing something completely different, life got extremely better. An advantage of being open-minded is that you will be open to options outside of what you consider normal, and that will free you from the stresses of a limited view of life.
8) It Might Make You Smarter
This one is more of a joke, but open-minded people tend to have higher intelligence, but it is hard to know if that is because they are open-minded or something else. After all, are they simply smart or are they smart because they are open-minded?
That said, being smart requires being open to ideas and being willing to look at both sides of an argument before deciding which side is best. People who aren’t keen to hear opinions that they disagree with are more likely to have limited information, which will impair their critical thinking and decision-making skills.
Being open-minded might make you smarter, which is undoubtedly an advantage, but at the same time, it is hard to know why this happens, so therefore it is difficult to draw any firm conclusions. That being said, if you try to be more open-minded, and we will cover some suggestions on how to do that later on, it will help you make better choices in the long run.
Disadvantages Of Being Open-Minded
With anything in life, being good at one thing often means you won’t be as good at other things. This usually has to do with the environment; when it comes to picking up something small, small hands are better, whereas when something is heavier, bigger hands might be more useful. Generally, the idea is that advantages and disadvantages tend to come together, but for different reasons and in different environments.
As an open-minded person, I think it has many advantages as I wouldn’t want to be anyone other than myself, but I can see how in some situations, being open-minded isn’t so great. Now let’s take some time to look at some of the disadvantages of being open-minded.
1) Open to Bad Ideas?
A common argument you’d hear from people who aren’t open-minded is that open-minded people accept everything they hear, or they believe lots of stuff that isn’t true. While this might be true in some cases, it might be better attributed to faulty logic or reasoning.
At the same time, I’d suggest that humouring or even thinking about something that you disagree with could be viewed as a problem by most people. In other words, being open to discussing a topic might be enough to make some people think that you believe in it.
For myself, I’m often willing to debate both sides of an argument even if I don’t believe either of them, whereas my brother doesn’t often even understand why people have opinions that he disagrees with.
A disadvantage of being open-minded is that you might be open to bad ideas, and while this isn’t a problem if you are testing out those ideas, it could become a problem if you start living by them. For the most part, I’d assume that this could cause problems for an open-minded person with their less open-minded friends and family.
2) Less Conviction and Certainty
A disadvantage of being open-minded is that you are less certain and may have less conviction when it comes to hot topic issues. If you are open to considering both sides, then it is harder to pick one side. In other words, being willing to understand the other side makes it more difficult to have strong convictions against something that could be reasonable in some circumstances.
While for most things in life, it doesn’t matter what side you are on, sometimes it does matter, and you have to choose. If you can weigh both sides, it might be more difficult to have strong convictions about a specific topic.
Close-minded people are confident in what they know, so it is easy for them to choose, but they don’t always make the most informed or best choice.
Being open-minded may make it more challenging to make choices because if you consider both sides, it is difficult to know which side is right as both sides are often suitable for different reasons.
3) Closed Minds Create Change
Related to the previous topic about having less conviction, being open-minded will mean you are willing to see both sides and maybe accept them as correct or valid. Simultaneously, it is often people who don’t care about other options and have strong convictions about specific things who go about making changes.
Put another way, when someone can accept or at least understand why something happens the way it does, they are less sure that there is a problem that needs to be fixed.
Being open-minded helps in understanding and making sense, but it also enables explaining away the need for profound change.
Sometimes being open-minded is a disadvantage because it can stop someone from having the strong convictions required to make a difficult change.
4) Creates Complexity in the World
Being open-minded means that you are willing to hear about ideas that are outside of the norm; this creates complexity which might be too much for some people. Having a closed mind makes the world a much simpler place because there is no need for nuance or further explanation when you have a fixed world view.
I know many people who have an elementary view of the world; they rarely question what they hear and are willing to accept what they see on the news. This, in many ways, makes life more comfortable as they don’t have to think too much about the stuff they don’t care about.
However, at the same time, it means that these people are often ill-informed or oblivious to what is actually going on. While this makes life easier, it doesn’t make the truth any less real; instead, it just hides it.
A basic disadvantage of being open-minded is that it makes the world more complicated and being open to opposing and different views add more detail without necessarily giving more certainty or simplicity.
5) You Go Against the Crowd
Most people don’t know much about most things, but they still might have strong opinions. Also, most people want to accept the simple answer they get from the TV; they aren’t interested in the details or nuance required to get to the truth of a matter. This can be a problem for open-minded people as being open means they get more details, which means they will disagree with what most people accept without question.
If you are ok with going against the crowd, then this won’t be a problem for you, but if it is essential to fit in, then being open-minded might be a problem for you if you want to discuss things.
For myself, I’ve always gone against the crowd, so it doesn’t matter much that I’m open-minded as it explains my question asking and unwillingness to accept the inaccurate but straightforward answer. Being open-minded means you will understand more, which means you are going to disagree with people who don’t understand.
6) You Might Do Things You’ll Regret
For myself, being open-minded has led me to do things that lots of my friends could never do and would regret. I’ve so far lived an exciting life and have been open to many experiences that most people wouldn’t. For the most part, I’ve accepted and learnt from what I’ve done, but when I’ve told friends about some of the things I’ve done, they have teased me.
If you aren’t ok with being teased for being different or doing things that other people would disagree with, this could be a disadvantage of being open-minded. On the other hand, regret is a sort of choice because as long as you act morality, then you don’t have to worry about doing things that you could regret.
Put another way; if you are open-minded to new types of experiences and you consider the consequences and risk and choose accordingly, there shouldn’t be anything to regret in the end.
A disadvantage of being open-minded is that you might do things that you regret, but this can always be avoided by thinking before you act and sticking to your morals.
So while it is possible to do something you regret, you don’t have to if you stick to making good choices based on all the available evidence.
How To Be More Open-Minded
While there are advantages and disadvantages to being open-minded, in my opinion, it seems that the benefit outweighs the negatives. For this reason, it might be helpful to work on your open-mindedness if it is something that you can see value in doing. At the same time, to a certain extent, it is likely that open-mindedness is something that we are born with or without, it is still something that we can work on getting better at.
Here are four ways you can improve your open-mindedness.
- Answer Questions Objectively. Often, when we already have opinions on topics, this limits our perceptions of those topics. However, if we take the time to think about how we would answer questions about those topics if asked by a friend, we might speak more objectively about them. The idea here is that when we try to think more objectively by asking questions, we can look more holistically at a subject rather than sticking to our preconceived notions.
- Less Stress and More Time. When we are rushed, we don’t have time to think deeply; instead, we focus on thinking quickly and more superficially. Rushing always causes stress, but it also prevents us from thinking clearly about the issues we are considering. Giving yourself more time to think about a topic will enable you to try out different possibilities and it will help you get a more complete view rather than a simple one.
- Consider The Pros and Cons of the Issue and Dig Deeper. Pros and cons lists are an easy way to weigh out your options; taking extra time after creating the initial list might enable you to dig deeper and get a better sense of the issue rather than focusing on the surface. For most things, making a list helps you get the obvious and simple ideas out of the way so that you can spend more time digging deeper and looking at the more complex aspects.
- Do you Want to Go Against the Norm? Often, people want to fit in, so it might require extra effort to go against the norm. Pushing back in this way will open up your options when it comes to thinking about a topic. In other words, accepting that you will go against the norm empowers you to think differently and come up with approaches that you might not have been willing to consider before.
Open-mindedness is an interesting topic as it is related to intelligence, problem-solving and creative solutions. And while we know that it is associated with those things, it is hard to know the cause and the effect. For this reason, it is a good idea to cultivate open-mindedness whenever there is time for it.
While open-mindedness is a personality trait that might be out of our control, I believe that being open to experiences is a huge benefit when it comes to living a meaningful life. While it is a cliché, variety is the spice of life, so a willingness to try new and different things leads to more exciting experiences and, inevitably, a more interesting life.