Most of us like to think that we are accepting of all people and open to new experiences, but it's easy to get caught up in one way of thinking or to spend time around people just like ourselves. There are a number of signs that indicate that it's time to be more open-minded, and it's not always just having friends who look alike or wanting to stick to the same habits. Some of these indicators are much more subtle, but being aware of them can help you expand your experiences as well as your mindset.
"Life is an adventure," psychotherapist and life coach Tracie O’Keefe tells Bustle. "Either you’re afraid and resistant to being part of that adventure or you choose to embrace it. It’s important to be open-minded because the more experiences and connections with a variety of different people you’re willing to have, the more opportunities there are for a rewarding, exciting and incredibly journey, both personally and professionally. Life will only be as rich as you create it to be."
It might be disconcerting to discover you're not as open-minded as you thought, but once you recognize that you may be unintentionally closing off new people and new situations, you can start taking the steps to welcoming in more varied experiences into your life.
Here are seven interesting signs that you're not open-minded enough.
1. You Avoid Asking Questions
Interacting with others who differ from you is great, but part of having an open mind is the willingness to explore more about others. "Open-minded people love asking questions about others' perspectives and ways of thinking," psychotherapist Angela Ficken tells Bustle. "If you find yourself feeling that your way is the right way and someone else is absolutely wrong, that might be a nice time to pull over and start asking them about their view point."
2. You Resist Change
Whether you're uncomfortable with letting a new person into the group or you can't stand the idea of moving into a new apartment, it may indicate you're not as go-with-the-flow as you might believe. "Open-minded people look forward to change because it can include many different opportunities to learn about themselves and others," says Ficken. "Closed-minded people might fear change because the outcome is uncertain and what they have now is at better than the unknown." As scary as change may be, start embracing it by making smaller variations to your comfort zone. Once you start seeing how these differences can open up your world, bigger changes won't seem as intimidating.
3. Your Friends Are All The Same
It’s natural to want to be part of a tribe — as humans, we tend to gravitate to people we have a lot in common with and who look and sound like us, says O'Keefe. "But if your friends, both in real life and on social media, are just like you and agree with everything you say or believe, you’re limiting your world view," she says. You might be comfortable with your circle now, but connecting with people from different cultures and walks of life will expose you to new experiences and knowledge.
4. You're Not Curious
Part of being open-minded is actively seeking out new perspectives or new hobbies. "Open-minded people are curious people," says Ficken. "They are interested in learning new things, whether it is learning through books, talking with friends, or meeting new people from a wide range of backgrounds." Maybe attend an event you wouldn't have before, or read a book outside of your typical interests. This way, you will spurn curiosity and increase the schools of thought you're being exposed to.
5. You Feel Uncomfortable When Someone Is Different From You
Pay attention not only to how you act when you meet someone different from you, but to how you react inside, too. "People have different sexualities and identities, even though you may have been brought up to believe that there is only one ‘right’ way to be and anything outside that is abnormal and wrong," says O'Keefe. "Being open to other people’s sex, gender or sexual diversity is courteous. Don’t cut yourself off from potentially exciting and rewarding connections." This also extends to race, ethnicity, and religious affiliation. This reaction may not be intentional or conscious, but the easiest way to combat it is to normalize what seems different to you by surrounding yourself with new people.
6. You Dismiss Other People's Religions
Religion is a divisive issue, and many people tend to be more critical of others' beliefs than they realize. According to O'Keefe, it's important to ask yourself, do you sometimes make assumptions about people once you learn their religious views? Are those assumptions ever informed by one-sided, often not true, stereotypes? "These are all signs you’re not being open-minded when it comes to a person’s religion or spirituality," says O'Keefe. And while religion is a charged topic, especially in the present, remind yourself that there are complex, nuanced people beyond their religious identities.
7. You Judge The Way Others Live
There's a difference between wanting something different for yourself and viewing someone's choices as negative because you don't agree with them. "If you are finding yourself harshly judging others, that is a red flag for having a closed mind," says Ficken. "No one is perfect and most of us judge others on some level, but if we notice we are harshly judging the life choices of others, that could be an indicator that your mind is closed off to other opinions and options. It doesn't mean you have to agree with them; having an open mind means you see the issue from all angles and can see where that person is coming from — regardless if you agree. It's not about right or wrong."
It's never a bad idea to examine your habits and see where you can be open-minded. Although we may be caught up in our personal experiences, stopping to ask questions, and learn different sides of the argument will bring some humanity back to seemingly divisive differences. It takes some practice to be more open-minded, but doing so can enrich your life — and the life of others.