Encouraging Conversations: Learning to Keep an Open Mind

Updated: Jun 3, 2021

By Tarish Rajakarier | Sri Lanka

Something that everyone understands is the frustration felt when speaking to someone who refuses to accept what you say, they refuse to keep an open mind.

  1. It might be your parents who refuse to believe certain things which they don’t understand or have not experienced.

  2. It might be another person who had a different education to yours or is at a different stage in their life.

  3. It might be your friend who has a very different outlook on life.

I think that our ability to close ourselves off to different perspectives is a huge flaw in the human mind. We always want to find facts and experiences that validate our self concepts – this in turn leads to only one experience of life.

The reality is that everyone experiences life differently and that by keeping an open mind to these other perspectives we can think about better solutions to common problems; we can fine tune our thinking to ensure we don’t force fish to climb trees.

Inculcating Open-Mindedness

I was recently part of a conversation between students of Maths, Economics, and Psychology. We were discussing Politics. Four seemingly different fields – yet so much available knowledge which is valuable to forming a holistic argument.

  1. A mathematician thinks objectively.

  2. An economist thinks opportunistically.

  3. A psychologist thinks about the cause of behaviour.

These perspectives overlapping on a field which neither learns anything about (political science) helped us realise the flaws in our own thinking and encouraged us to draw on the benefits from someone else’s perspective. However, we can only do this if we are willing to accept that our thinking is flawed – which many of you find hard to do!

  1. We wanted to know why politicians say controversial and widely condemnable statements – the opportunity of appealing to their target audience for votes (in whatever region they are campaigning).

  2. We wanted to know why some leaders cannot hand over power to those more capable – people do not want to let go of the power they hold over others.

  3. We wanted to know why people continue to vote for leaders who will not give them what they need – the campaign which prioritizes more ‘flashy’ promises will always be perceived to trump the more realistic campaign with achievable goals that is aimed at solving everyday problems.

Now, this conversation would have ended very differently if none of us had kept an open mind, nor were willing to accept that the other had a better solution. By taking the best from each perspective, one can form an argument which covers the bases of more than one field and thus appeals to more people as well.

Staying Open-Minded As A Millennial or GenZ

We shouldn’t say someone is wrong or someone is delusional. Even scientific facts change from year to year. Nothing is cast in stone and everything is someone else’s perspective. We may not agree with some perspectives but we should accept that people might not agree with ours either – this is the first step to open-mindedness.

The best way to get through a clash of perspectives is to acknowledge you each have different knowledge. Each person’s knowledge is true until proven otherwise. It’s also important to be open acknowledge that both people can be right, yet due to their experiences they only have knowledge of one aspect of the truth.

I think it is beneficial if we can accept that the other has knowledge which we should use to form a new perspective. Ultimately, our perspectives on life, partners, work, and activities depend on how we prioritize different aspects of our lives.

We should learn to resist the temptation to think “I’m right, they’re wrong” simply because we get an uneasy feeling when we try to change a fixed belief system. Strong attitudes and beliefs can be detrimental as they tend to polarize our thinking. The best example of this is politics. You may support a politician for years: your support was influenced by your family and the media.

If a news agency reports a scandal against the politician, you will immediately defend the accused because in your mind they have only done good things. You will even believe the lies they tell you because of your existing allegiance. Instead, we must practice open-mindedness: consider the opposing argument, see the presented evidence, and try to accept it. Blindly following people because of your experiences with them is loyalty but it is also blindness.

Read this article on how to keep an open mind in political conversations.

Don’t succumb to the faults of human functioning, we are the most educated generation thus far and we should use the knowledge we have to ensure we do not make the same mistakes as generations before.

Click here to read about how anthropology works to make us better thinkers every succeeding generation.

I am not saying to never defend your views and accept everyone’s way of life, I am suggesting that we be more critical of ourselves so that we can avoid the biases instilled in us through our experiences and upbringing; this will inspire greater open-mindedness.

Remember that everyone experiences life differently and that each experience is experienced differently based on people’s past experiences and personalities. The greatest thing we have is diversity in all aspects of the meaning – we shouldn’t let this hinder us, but we should use it to progress.

Diversity in thinking and re-thinking how we think is something we should be more conscious of as we navigate through this ever changing matrix of values and perspectives.

TL;DR be skeptic, but be open-minded.


The views and opinions expressed in this entry are solely those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the position of The Zeitgeist. Assumptions made in the analysis are not reflective of the position of any entity other than the author(s). The Zeitgeist does not verify the accuracy of any of the information contained in the entry. The Zeitgeist is not to be held responsible for misuse, reuse, recycled and cited and/or uncited copies of content within this entry.



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