Changing Your ThinkingMost people of faith would say they believe in the inherent dignity of others and the worth of multiple perspectives. This lofty ideal is not always so easy to practice in reality, though. You probably put a lot of time and thought into arriving at your particular standard of ethics, so it's natural to think that the world would be a better place if everyone held those same values.

While it should be no surprise that others would feel the same way about their principles, opposing viewpoints can make it difficult to maintain a friendly view of the people who hold them. Open-mindedness is not a skill that comes naturally to people, but it is a vital part of honoring the humanity of others. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to ensure that you remain as open-minded as possible.

Explore Your Anger

When someone says something that conflicts with your deeply held beliefs, it is natural to get offended. Anger is a common first reaction to such a scenario. Rather than responding angrily to the other person, however, which will likely do no more than offend him or her and may even shut down the conversation completely, take some time to assess why the viewpoint upsets you so much. Confront your own emotions before you confront the other person. Are you really hearing what he or she means, or are your feelings based on your own fear or insecurity?

This kind of introspection is not always comfortable. If you discover that your anger stems from your own lack of knowledge or past experiences you wish you could forget, it can be humbling or even painful. It is a necessary basis for open, healthy relationships, though. Acknowledging that your reaction is more about what is going on inside your own head or heart can help you keep an open mind that is willing to truly hear where the other person is coming from.

Practice Perspective Taking

The common advice of walking a mile in others' shoes before judging them refers to the benefits of perspective taking. An essential precursor to empathy, perspective taking is the practice of making sure that you perceive the other person's point of view accurately. It involves not only seeing the information they consider most valuable but also understanding how they reach their conclusions based on the facts they are given. You engage in perspective taking by following these steps:

  1. Listen without interruption.
  2. Reflect the sentiments expressed back to the speaker.
  3. Ask if your summary of the viewpoint is accurate.
  4. Ask clarifying questions to correct any misunderstanding.

This process is likely to seem tedious the first few times you try it, but with practice, it will start to feel like second nature. Once you experience the benefits of truly understanding where another person is coming from, the steps you need to take to get there won't seem so daunting.

Incorporate It Into Self-Care

As with all challenging changes, learning to remain open-minded can be exhausting. The good news is that you don't have to do it alone. Adopt these practices as part of your self-care routine, and seek help when you need it. Set open-mindedness as a goal when you talk to your therapist. As an expert in human behavior, she or he is equipped to help you work through the specific obstacles that keep you from understanding others' points of view and build stronger relationships with them. Ultimately, it is in your best interest to learn how to see different perspectives, and approaching the practice as self-care may help you overcome some of your innate resistance to the process.

As a person of faith, valuing others is likely at the top of your list of desired virtues. Maintaining your open-mindedness is an essential part of embodying your values.

Category: Health and Wellness

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