Open Minded Learning and the Power of Disagreement

Open Minded Learning. Ray Dalio Principles
From: Ray Dalio – Principles

One of the most powerful tools any learner can have is the ability to be open-minded. Put succinctly, being open-minded means having the willingness to search for evidence that may go against one’s current beliefs and weigh new information fairly and without bias. Through open-mindedness, we can gain critical insights from others and apply them to our own learning. The ability to openly listen to the thoughts and ideas of others as well as create room for productive disagreements is part of what makes a growth mindset so powerful.

Being open-minded is often not an easy task, but it is necessary for improvement to occur. This article discusses how to cultivate an open mindset in life.

The Benefits of Open Minded Learning

By being open-minded we allow for many benefits to occur on our journey as learners:

  • Open mindedness allows us to get a better insight into our world and learn new information about ourselves and others
  • Being open minded gives us the potential to try new things
  • Open minded learning allows oneself to grow and improve as a person
  • By being open minded we become more aware of how different thoughts can impact us and can become less prone to maniupulation

What Does Open Minded Learning Like? Open Minded vs Close Minded Thinking

Before knowing how to adopt an open mindset one must first understand what both open-minded and closed-minded thinking looks like. Although being both open-minded and closed-minded may present themselves in different ways, here are some common things to look out for when assessing one’s own open-mindedness.

Open-Minded PeopleClosed Minded People
Are curious about disagreement and aware that they may be wrongDon’t want their ideas to change and are frustrated when others do not agree
Are more likely to ask genuine questions to create discussionAre more likely to make assertive statements not open to discussion
Look to see things through other people’s eyesFocus on being understood rather than understanding
Are often more interested in listening and encouraging others to voice their opinionsMay overpower other people’s voices and prevent them from speaking
Are able to critically evaluate multiple opinions Thinks in absolutes where only one idea is correct
Are often extremely humble and open to criticismMay lack humility

How to Adopt an Open Mindset for Learning

Know that you Don’t Know

Many people will make an incorrect decision because they believe with certainty that they’re right. Through this mindset, they do not allow themselves to think that there may be other alternatives. Being open-minded means recognizing that you may not know all the answers and that you don’t have to solve everything by yourself. Even experts in their respective fields understand that they can make mistakes, so they bounce their ideas off of others. Choose to recognize and get to know your personal blind spots. Instead of thinking about what the right answer is try thinking about what the right questions to ask are and who the right people to ask them to could be.

Do not Worry About Looking Good

There is a common misconception that those who are successful do not make mistakes. Many believe that to be a successful person one must have all the answers. Perhaps this is because we are constantly shown an “idealized” view of success where the rich and influential are always portrayed as knowing all. However, the truth is that those who are successful want to get to the best possible answer and are rarely ever certain that they know the best way. Those who are open-minded recognize that they have weaknesses and blind spots, admit those weaknesses to others, and work to actively search out more information so that they can build on those weaknesses.

Consider the Thoughts and Opinions of Others

Many people allow their biases and egos to prevent them from searching for information that goes against what they already believe. Perhaps they view being able to consider opposing views as a weakness that threatens their ability to make their own decisions. In fact, the opposite is the truth. By being able to take in the perspectives of other people and engage in thoughtful disagreement we allow ourselves to broaden our perspectives and make an informed decision. Seek first to understand, then be understood.

Seek out the Perspectives of Experts

When engaging in open-minded conversations do not fall into the trap of unproductively asking too many people. There is only so much finite time available to each person and seeking out every single person’s views, while admirable, is not the greatest use of one’s resources. Seek out experts who know more than you who can act as great teachers. In your search for growth be evidence-based.

Listen in a non-judgemental Manner and Evaluate Other Views

Being open-minded does not mean that you should automatically believe in something that another person says. This line of reasoning is what has led to the spread of misinformation and disinformation during times when we should be critically evaluating others. Instead, we should consider the reasoning of others and the expertise that is behind their point of view. Perhaps they truly are incorrect, but we will never know if we don’t encourage them to explain their reasoning and properly evaluate their point of view. Regardless of who is right look at disagreements as an opportunity to learn. Respectfully and thoughtfully disagree with others, listen to opposing points of view, and work towards mutual understanding.

Being Open Minded Takes Time

Like all things, being open-minded is a learned habit that takes time to implement regularly. Learning will be a long journey, not a race, and it takes a lot of effort to fight to determine what’s true. True experts are constantly questioning themselves and others so that they can collectively bring forth the best possible information for others. Are you up for the challenge?

Interested in learning more about open-minded learning? We recommend reading Principles: Life and Work by billionaire Ray Dalio. A lot of the content and theories in this article are based on his life story.

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