“Let go of your attachment to being right, and suddenly your mind is more open. You’re able to benefit from the unique viewpoints of others, without being crippled by your own judgment.” – Ralph Marston, American sportsman
Work is an integral part of our lives. Enjoying what you do is important, but so is making sure you get along with your colleagues. Having an open mind is one of your strongest allies in building productive relationships. But, equally, we must be careful not to sacrifice our values.
At a previous job, one of my colleagues would habitually wear non-matching socks. The difference wasn’t subtle – I remember he combined a red sock and a lime green sock, and once he mixed a sober “business” sock with a colorful Disney sock.
Arriving to work early one morning, I overheard a conversation while I was getting a coffee. Two managers were talking about Mr. Socks. One of them said that they should not give him more high-profile projects. The other manager wanted to know why. “I find it difficult to trust someone who deliberately mismatches his socks,” he said, “and if we give him bigger projects, I’d have to spend more time with him.”
I knew both managers very well. The one who didn’t trust Mr. Socks was professional in every sense of the word, but also something of a perfectionist. Correctness and accuracy were very important to him. It was almost as if he played the part of a “Mr. Perfect.” He wanted to walk right, talk right, and do everything right so that he wouldn’t experience rejection.
When the two men saw me, they realized that I had overheard their conversation. Mr. Perfect asked me not to repeat what I had heard. I said I wouldn’t, but I wanted to ask him a question: was it really about the socks?
He looked deeply embarrassed. He knew that I understood the real issue, because he had mentioned it once before. You see, Mr. Perfect was also strongly religious, and Mr. Socks was gay.
Values and Acceptance
In this situation, Mr. Perfect had tried to preserve his values without having an open mind. He was living out his interpretation of being traditionally religious, while also wanting to be seen as professional and politically correct. Underpinning his behavior was the need to be accepted, even as he displayed a lack of acceptance towards someone else.
Preserving your values is an honorable thing to do. Defending your values, while recognizing that other people have different values, is even more honorable.
Acknowledging other people’s values doesn’t diminish the importance and principles of your own. Instead, it shows your humanity, maturity and empathy.
Preserving Values Vs. Closing Your Mind
During last Friday’s #MTtalk chat, we discussed the difference between preserving your values and closing your mind. Here are the questions we asked, and some of your responses:
Q1. What values do you hold dear and why?
@MikeBarzacchini Kindness, mindfulness, humor, and service are four core values I try to live and hold.
@MapDorcas Valuing people (humanity) regardless of race, creed or color. That’s both in my personal and professional life. I have learned if I do not value people, there is not much point to life.
Q2. What does preserving your values mean to you in practice?
Preserving your values means to protect and respect what’s important to you. Our participants shared some very powerful ideas, including the following:
@temekoruns Preserving your values requires a) staying out of compromising situations, b) not associating with people that don’t share the same values, and c) learning to think and remain silent before speaking or acting quickly.
@jojacob_uk Using my values as a basis for decision making and action, even if it doesn’t make me popular (it never makes me popular).
Q3. What are the benefits of preserving your values?
Q4. Are preserving your values and being open-minded mutually exclusive? Please explain.
@carriemaslen An important value and culture component IS being open minded.
@YEPBusiness Critical thinkers are by definition open-minded. I’ll take in the info and THEN make an action plan. I will say that we ALL participate in things. It’s sometimes a necessary evil. We all ride the line. Truth.
@shamikv This is where a win-win mindset helps. Conflicts are good with that mindset.
Q5. How do you know the difference between you being closed-minded, and preserving your values?
The following tweets demonstrate how we act differently when we close our minds:
@MicheleDD_MT Signs that I am being closed minded: I “dig in” and stubbornly refuse to budge. I am convinced I’m RIGHT and you are not. I start to judge ideas, practices and people.
@itstamaragt Being closed-minded means not understanding those whose values don’t line up with yours and being ignorant of the values of others. Preserving your values involves being more open-minded and open to the values of others whilst maintaining yours.
Q6. In what situations are you more likely to close your mind?
@bentleyu When encountering difference, people can sometimes shut down. The key is to acknowledge it and proactively work on learning about and understanding others.
@BRAVOMedia1 For me, it would have to be an issue close to me that I may not agree or be able to accept what the person/ place/ organization/ etc. is saying. BUT I’m learning that I can listen to try and understand another’s point of view, without judgment.
Q7. Do you think it’s necessary to close your mind sometimes? Why?
@farismismar Yes. You need to draw the line for others to know what values in you cannot be crossed.
@LernChance No. Closed mind by definition of Milton Rokeach: If I don’t like what you say, I also don’t like you. Open Mind is IMO to accept that I don’t like your answer but still accept you as a person with the right to your own opinion.
Q8. How does being closed-minded get in your way at work, and with your relationships with others?
Closed-mindedness can cause you to be judgmental and lack empathy. Neither of these characteristics will help you build good relationships.
@lg217 To be closed-minded is seeing things in one view only. That is how judging someone starts. You hold back from growing mentally.
@J_Stephens_CPA The result of being closed-minded is headbutts and clashes.
Q9. How might it benefit you to be open-minded?
@BrainBlenderTec The more open-minded we are, the more wisdom we can obtain.
@LifeSpeak Being open-minded allows you to learn and grow by forcing you out of your comfort zone and challenging the way you think and behave. It also enables you to see things from other perspectives, which leads to better relationship building and problem solving.
Q10. How can you preserve your values and be open-minded?
@Yolande_MT You can change within the boundaries of your values.
@MapDorcas Observe the impact of values on other people. Continue with values that have positive responses, outcomes and reciprocal benefits. Remain open to challenge and change!
To read all the tweets, have a look at the Wakelet collection of this chat.
Having an open mind is the antidote to “othering.” Next time on #MTtalk, we’re going to discuss the ugly truth about othering, what it is, and why it matters. In preparation for the chat, we’d like to know what type of othering you’ve experienced in the workplace. Please vote in our Twitter poll.
In the meantime, here are some resources relating to preserving your values and closing your mind: