"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
I grew up under the apartheid regime in South Africa. Being a white child, living in a whites-only suburb and going to a school in the neighborhood, I didn't have much social contact with children of other races. It was a given that, as a child, you didn't have Black friends, and this was expected to continue into your adulthood. I spent my childhood in this closed-minded world.
Fast-forward to the present and things have changed. South Africa has been a constitutional democracy since 1994, and I have the privilege of a multiracial friendship group. Unfortunately, though, things haven't changed quite enough – not all my family members are happy that I have Black friends.
Often the unhappy ones won't say it directly. But their small remarks and throwaway comments make it clear as day how they feel. What they don't understand is that I don't choose my friends based on skin color. What's important to me is that we can laugh and learn together, and be there for one another.
Recently, at a family get-together, one of my family members made an inappropriate race-based comment. As much as I wanted to avoid any confrontation, I felt it would have been wrong not to challenge them.
I generally find that most people are open-minded enough to question their own assumptions. But, about five minutes into this conversation, I realized that this person was so narrow-minded, he could look through a keyhole with both eyes at the same time!
When I asked him why he felt that way, he said it was because he had strong values and a deep appreciation for his own culture. So, in a nonconfrontational tone, I asked him, "What are your top 10 most important values in life?" Here's the interesting part: he couldn't even tell me his top five!
He based his whole argument on ego (being right) and not on values, so I proceeded to ask him which elements of our culture were significant to him, and why. He named a few of them, but the best "why" he came up with was, "Because that's how I grew up."
I was sad that my family member held on to his outdated views, but I was glad that I stood up for my own values, instead of keeping quiet.
Sometimes we have legitimate reasons for wanting to preserve our values. But sometimes we might be suffering from a closed mind. Closing your mind might feel like a more comfortable option than admitting you're wrong, or that you held on to a flawed belief for many years.
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:
@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.
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).
@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.
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.
@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.
@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.
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.
@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.
@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:
In the words of my grandmother, who was the most amazing cook and baker, "You can't prepare food to nurture you if the ingredients are stale, old or rotten. No amount of magic, spice and effort can change that."
See the best responses from our latest Twitter Talk on holiday highs and lows - discussing the best and worst of the winter holiday season!
"It's learning to balance push and pull, holding on and letting go, being there without smothering."