Changing an opinion and admitting you were wrong after believing you were correct is hard, especially when you pride yourself on being an intelligent human being. It can be a little embarrassing or a blow to your ego. Some also find it difficult to stick to the beliefs they hold true in the face of opposition. Think of this in terms of closed-minded and open-minded people:
- Closed-minded people don’t want their ideas challenged. They want people to agree with them and are more interested in being proven right than asking questions and learning others’ perspectives. They’re focused on being understood rather than understanding.
- Open-minded people are more curious when someone disagrees and open to the possibility that they might be wrong. The difference in opinion compels them to see things through others’ eyes.
Both Have Their Shortfalls
- The flexibility of an open mind is great if not, necessary to a point. But bending too quickly or too often might mean giving up their correct beliefs or principles for another set. It made Henry Clay unelectable. Open-minded people are often perceived as too impressionable and not principled enough for holding no firm convictions and granting plausibility to anything.
- The rigidness of a closed mind makes a person appear true to their values, but those satisfied by their level of knowledge lose all sense of discovery. There’s no further inquiry. Closed minds show strong convictions- right or wrong- because they stubbornly cling to assumptions, emotions, or what they think they know. It’s a passive mind.
An Alternative is an Active Mind
Instead of worrying if you’re too open-minded or too close-minded, seek to have an active mind. With an active mind, you’re able and willing to examine ideas critically. An active mind, according to philosopher Ayn Rand, “does not grant equal status to truth and falsehood; it does not remain floating forever in a stagnant vacuum of neutrality and uncertainty; by assuming the responsibility of judgment, it reaches firm convictions and holds to them.”
It’s less about whether or not you change your opinion and more about how you form your opinions. There’s a greater priority on the process of thinking and forming opinions than making a hasty conclusion.
Three Stages of an Active Mind:
- Listening: Seek diverse viewpoints from multiple sources, read things that confirm and dispel your opinions, and ensure your understanding.
- Synthesizing: Compare old and new information, explore how different ideas fit together or the nuances and subtleties, distinguish between broad principles and narrow interpretations.
- Acting. Test your ideas with other people and other experiences. Continue to look to confirm beliefs and detect errors, update your thinking.