The Open-Minded Individual

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”

– Socrates

That quote seems a little paradoxical, doesn’t it? How can one be wise when they know nothing? Clearly, Socrates does not mean that those who know absolutely nothing are the wisest people – rather he is commenting on individuals who are open-minded.

With this short, simple sentence Socrates says all that needs to be said about open-mindedness: when you stop pretending to know everything, you can learn anything.

Many of our conversations with people take an opinion based turn rather than fact based and many of us would rather argue a point that we really know nothing about until we’re blue in the face than take time to listen to what others have to say about a topic.

Rather than take the time to research and learn more about something so that we can have facts and data to support our claims, we tend to fervently express our opinions with little to no evidence.

This is the ego getting in the way.

It’s much easier on our egos to act as if we are familiar with something instead of admitting that we have no idea about the new bill being passed in congress or the problems with a new alternative fuel source.

Instead we fool ourselves into believing that we have something to add to a conversation we know nothing about when what we should be doing is listening.

Positive Effects of Open-Mindedness

An article from the University of Pennsylvania lists a few statistically proven effects of open-mindedness:

– Open-minded, cognitively complex individuals are less swayed by singular events and are more resistant to suggestion and manipulation.

– Open-minded individuals are better able to predict how others will behave and are less prone to projection.

– Open-minded individuals tend to score better on tests of general cognitive ability like the SAT or an IQ test.

And these aren’t the only positive effects, either. Other results include more knowledge because you are more inclined to look things up and to listen rather than waiting to speak; better relationships with people because rather than argue we are more open to another’s point of view and, again, we are able to listen better once we have removed our egos.

The same article cites the definition of open-mindedness as “the willingness to search actively for evidence against one’s favored beliefs, plans, or goals, and to weigh such evidence fairly when it is available.”

This definition shows that open-minded individuals are more likely to be prepared for any number of outcomes in almost any aspect of life because they logically assess each situation whereas someone with a large ego will constantly be surprised and disappointed when things go differently than he or she had imagined.

An open-minded world is also a fairer world because everything is considered equally regardless of how one feels about a specific thing.

Instead of closing your mind, open it. Try catching yourself the next time someone tries to debate or talk to you about something you know nothing about. Instead of forming an opinion not based on fact, listen to what that person has to say as objectively as possible, do your research, and then form your own opinion!

That’s the UCR Way!