The clash of open and closed minds

There are two facets to being open minded, as this diagram that I've been using lately shows us. One way opens us to other people. The other opens us to our sources of inspiration, intuitions and inner guidance. I started having experiences of being unusually open minded as early as in elementary school. I was without a clue what's was happening or what I could do differently. I was getting into clashes with closed minds because I was open minded. It's only recently that I have been able to see the pattern as clearly as I describe it here.

When we open up our minds to other people, we have a lot to learn. We seek first to understand them, before getting understood by them. We become good listeners and observers of where they are coming from. We learn enough about their viewpoints to seemingly look through their eyes and see their world the way they do. Over time we can speak their minds, see their strengths, gain their trust and respect their values. With this approach to open mindedness, we get known for being empathetic, inclusive, diplomatic and appreciative of diversity.

When we open our minds to our inner world, we put ourselves on the receiving end of a bounty of gifts. We get answers to our questions one way or another. We are given what to say to and do for others. We receive solutions to our problems and sequences to get everything accomplished. We discover how value it is to not know everything, so we remain open to be shown what to comprehend next. We live in the present moment without fear of being abandoned, neglected or abused by our inner world.

When it seems like everyone else is closed minded, we become too open minded to compensate for their extreme stance. We cannot become less open-minded because it appears they are not open minded at all. We become extremely open minded in ways that oppose closed mindedness and give open mindedness a bad name to the crowd with closed minds. We feel we have to make up for what's missing in the others. We believe we're right and they need to change their minds. We don't see a way to open their closed minds. We cannot believe we are being too open minded or there could ever be too much of a good thing like that.

When we become too open minded, we daydream and fantasize to excess. We've left the quadrant of being open to other people and become exclusively open to our inner world. We become extremely imaginative without grounding our "what-if" possibilities with "what-is" constraints. We become so unrealistic that we are no longer innovative or poised to be helpful to others. Our open-mindedness has become self indulgent, obsessive and out of touch with our circumstances. We've gone off into la-la land with no tether back to home base.

We become too open minded when others are being too closed minded. Both sides have become mutually exclusive and devoted to tormenting their nemesis. The differences between open and closed minds seem irreconcilable -- just like any deadlock, stalemate or standoff in negotiations. Our common ground gets held under suspicion, our common interests get disputed and the conciliatory tactics get discredited as conniving deceits. The dynamics are a closed system often labeled a vicious cycle or set up for single loop learning. There is no escaping linguistic prisons, no awareness of the interrelated complexity and no responsibility taken for the others' condition as a mirror reflection.

A reconciliation and transformation becomes possible when we realize what's missing in our own excessively open-minded approach. We need to become more closed-minded. We are missing the value of constraints, realism, practicalities and obstacles. We need the reasons why not, why we can't and why it won't work. We lack encounters with resistance to change, obstacles to progress and blocking characters to frustrate our easy access to possibilities. Our resolve becomes refined, our sales pitch become more alluring and our value proposition becomes more useful to others.

When we create our opposition as valuable, essential and welcomed, we change our minds, our perceptions and our world. We realize the best of both alternatives: open minds and closed minds are good together. We see how they are two sides of one coin, not extremely polarized positions. We learn the lesson being taught by the exclusively closed minded individuals to combine imagination with realism and possibilities with practicalities. We then hear the others like good listeners do. We return to the quadrant of opening our minds to other people. We relate to the others by understanding where they are coming from as tied into our extreme. We see ourselves through their eyes as previously rejecting their values, priorities and strengths. We can change all that and watch the others change their tune about us, with us and for us.


  1. Oh Tom - What a beauty this one is! Off to reread it :)

  2. Thanks for being a fan minh! Happy rereading.