How to Stay Open-Minded Without Your Brain Falling Out

by Ben Dickenson Bampton

I started writing this after looking at a kettle. Not after staring at it and pondering how it had got there, nor whether its producers – Russell Hobbs, if you must now – were any better than the next kettle manufacturer. No, I looked at this kettle a little longer than usual because it represented something, something I’d wanted to avoid acknowledging for a long time. It represented the growing close-mindedness of a family member.

Just as we all get to the age where we can drive ourselves around, or live in a house without Mum and Dad (and without burning it down), so too, it seems, do we reach the age where our minds gradually begin to close. As they start shutting themselves off from the outside world, bit by bit, new outfits exchange themselves for replacements of old ones, kettles remain Russell Hobbs, other people’s opinions are a little less attractive. Middle-old age beckons in the dawn of closed-mindedness.

Truth is, closed-mindedness is an inescapable onslaught that we all have to deal with. From that Gran who claims that it “wasn’t like that back in my day”, to the undeniably bigoted (and ever so slightly racist) old couple down the road, the struggle is real and, for the most part, harmless.

But what if it wasn’t like that? What if, like arthritis and cataracts, there were ways of curing and preventing such bothersome old-age issues.

Professor William Hare has spent years researching educational psychology, and the specific science of “open-minded inquiry”. Drawing influence from his work, I’ve devised a cunning little five-step intervention plan, so that you – yes, you – can save yourself and your loved ones from the curse of closed-mindedness.

  1. Eradicate Assumptions.

Go on, get rid of them. Assumptions creep up everywhere, whether we like it or not. That guy with the tribal tattoos and beefy forearms across the street, he could be into opera, right? There are countless assumptions we take for granted, from our personal preferences to those about people and facts. As long as you avoid the old existential crisis, questioning them is never a bad thing.

  1. Unlearn Dogmatism

This is a fact. We are all dogmatic. Joking! Just messing with you I am. Dogma in itself is the act of believing something above all else, regardless of reasoning and fact that may be able to prove your opinion wrong. Test: when family and friends present you with a solid view, present them with your own counter-reasoning and watch how they react. If they listen and digest what you’re saying (they don’t have to agree), chances are they’ve passed. Don’t do this too much, mind, or you’ll come across as an argumentative little arse.

  1. Stop the ‘Experts’

We all have that one friend who’s geeky love of classic cars, computers or cameras means he can lord it over you in any conversation on the topic. And yes, expert opinion is certainly valid in numerous areas, through law, medicine and research to name a few. But the next time your dweebathlete drops some interrupting jargon on you, finish you’re sentence and tell him to back up. His terminology is only replacing his unwillingness to listen.

  1. Go Somewhere New

The mind loves a fresh challenge, even if you don’t. The Dalai Lama, an advocate for open-mindedness if there ever was one, recommends going somewhere completely new every year (and that doesn’t just mean a new chippy). If that means dragging your old man out from in front of a re-run of the weekend’s Grand Prix, so be it. It won’t be pretty at first, but it sure will be effective.

  1. Be Humble

When did you start to know everything, smarty pants? Simply because you’ve won the last two pub quizzes doesn’t mean it’s now your god-given right to speak over the rest of your team. Just like Mo Farah doesn’t come flashing past you as you puff along in your beat-up trainers on a Tuesday evening, being good doesn’t mean you need to lord it over everyone else. You will make mistakes again, Mr Invincible.

There you go, knock yourselves out and enjoy the irony embedded within that. Just don’t come to me complaining when your younger brother goes mad on philosophy and your Dad feuds for a month after the ‘day out in Blackpool’ isn’t the eye-opening trip you’d hoped. Here’s to open-mindedness! Let’s hope it lasts…

A word from Butty Hands:

Ben Dickenson Bampton regularly writes about his travels and the world of photography. To read more of his work, click here to check out his personal blog.

Featured image source.


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