Being open-minded means being receptive to new and different ideas or the opinions of others, according to the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. According to the Collins English Dictionary - Complete and Unabridged Edition, being open-minded means: a mind receptive to new ideas, arguments, unprejudiced, ready to entertain new ideas.
I like to think of myself as open-minded but I have caught myself at meetings, reacting to something I hear that I do not agree with. I have a visceral response, at times, when I am not open-minded. At those times, the visceral response provides feedback that is a cue for me to change my reaction.
My body language also clues me in to when I am being closed-minded. If I find myself sitting in a meeting and I cross my arms at my chest and look away from the person who is speaking - it is usually a signal that I am closed off from hearing what another person is proposing.
Recently I attended a meeting where one person was working hard to get her point across. She was repeating herself and was forceful in her argument. I thought to myself "She is really digging in her heals to get her way". I then realized that what I recognized in her was an aspect of myself.
In order to be open-minded, we have to be aware of when we are being close-minded - and then we have an opportunity to change our thinking, to become receptive to different ideas and opinions. We are often quite attached to our ideas. That feeling of attachment feels constricted. Letting go of our attachments to ideas feels expansive and free.
So how can we develop open-mindedness?
1. We can become aware of being closed-minded by tuning inward, being aware of body language and realizing that our reactions to others may be reflections of ourselves.
2. We can let go of the need to be "right".
3. We can realize that our ideas and beliefs are shaped by our conditioning, our backgrounds, our genes, personality, disposition, and life experiences. Others have different perspectives. If we want other people to be receptive to our perspectives, we should do the same for them.
4. We can remember that really understanding another person's perspective is a result of listening carefully to what they say, rather than forming our rebuttal while they are speaking.
It may be impossible to keep an open mind at all times, but with awareness and practice we can be open-minded more often.