How to Practice Being More Open-Minded with Family

Ah, just in time for those divisive family discussions around the Thanksgiving table!

The reason for most unpleasant Thanksgiving debates is a decided lack of open-mindedness. As humans, we tend to surround ourselves with those who are like-minded, which is great for getting along but not so great for practicing openness and acceptance.

The fact of the matter is, most of us are really bad at being open-minded, even if we believe otherwise. Most of us have strong opinions that we have deemed valid and true and adjusting the rudder on our cargo ship of personal beliefs is slow-going, stiff and rusty at best.

So what can you do when you’re faced with a table full of family who have all degrees of different beliefs and opinions—a table where everyone thinks he or she is right? Rather than trying to prove yourself right to everyone, use these 5 tips to practice open-mindedness and encourage civil, good-natured debate:

Avoid shutting others down

It doesn’t matter if you are right. Making others feel wrong, small or lesser is a horrible thing to do and will turn any healthy discussion nasty fast. Think of how you feel when someone argues with you in a condescending manner. No bueno. Remember, everyone’s unique experiences are valid, regardless of your personal opinions. So be empathetic rather than condescending. Avoid using direct and aggressive language like ‘you people’ to describe anyone of opposing beliefs. And definitely don’t try to change someone’s mind. Get off the offensive. Get off the defensive. Just ask them to hear you and try to understand your side, and you do the same for them. It’s not your job to change someone else’s mind. All you can do is present your beliefs in a calm, non-aggressive way and really work to hear others’ beliefs without immediate judgement.

Rephrase negative reactions

If your reaction to a discussion is “are you frickin’ kidding me?”, take a moment to consider: why did you have such a strong reaction? Is it because it grates against your most closely held beliefs? Do you have personal experiences that are causing you to react in this way? Consider your reaction in your mind, not out loud. Instead of mocking others with your exclamation, ask this simple question: why? You clearly don’t understand their way of thinking, so calmly try to find out more. So rarely do people actually listen to each other and respect each other in discussions that you may notice the energy of the entire table shift towards a more open and loving place. To put it bluntly, practice less talking and more listening.

Be comfortable with being uncomfortable

It is comfortable to have opinions and feel like you know what you are talking about. It is uncomfortable to open yourself up by questioning long held beliefs and learning new things. Get yourself out of your comfort zone by subjecting yourself to new and unfamiliar things often. Try listening to new types of music, eating foreign cuisines, reading different types of books and magazines and talking to people you otherwise wouldn’t have any contact with. The more world you can subject yourself to, the more open to new and different ways of thought you will be.

Practice mindfulness

Quiet the chatter of your mind. You don’t need a comeback for everything. Pretend like you have to give a speech on everything that was said at a discussion and really open your ears. By quieting our inner dialogue, we can glean so much more information from the words of others.

Be honest

If you don’t understand something, ask. If you have been wrong, admit it. Being too proud to admit your weaknesses is being close-minded. Honesty, by its virtue, is about openness.

This Thanksgiving, practice open-mindedness and having civil discussions. Encourage the genial exchange of ideas rather than allowing debates to devolve into personal attacks. Thanksgiving is the time for kindness and gratitude, not stubbornness and condescension.

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74 comments

Peggy B
Peggy B9 days ago

NOTED

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Vincent T
Vincent T13 days ago

thank you

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Dana W
Dana W17 days ago

This is so hard to do, but so important.

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Amanda M
Amanda M19 days ago

The only way that's going to happen with some members of my family is if we have two ground rules for the get-togethers: No Discussing Religious Beliefs, and No Discussing Politics. Without those rules, it would look like the Hatfields and the McCoys were at our table, and it would get UGLY in no time flat!

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iskrica knezevic
iskrica knezevic20 days ago

Thank you so much

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Patrice Z
Patrice Z20 days ago

Very hard to do, but worth trying.

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Marija M
Marija M21 days ago

good tips, tks

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Ruth S
Ruth S22 days ago

Thanks.

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heather g
heather g22 days ago

When your family is on another continent, you never think of differences. You only think of how lucky people are to have their families nearby.

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Mary B
Mary B22 days ago

I refuse to waste time being open minded with people who have said nothing new in decades.Their beliefs are out dated and personally opposed to my values. The best they will get from me is cordiality.

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