Be Open to the Ideas of Others
Posted by Todd Smith
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Today, we will be exploring the hidden value in the opinions of others, and I urge you to be open-minded and receptive as you read this blog. This is capable of affecting your potential for better on a number of different levels.
Opinion can be defined as a thought, a view, or a concept formed in the mind about a particular subject. It’s a conclusion or belief held with confidence but not substantiated by positive proof or knowledge. Because of this, many people are fearful of accepting someone else’s opinion. Elizabeth Cady Stanton—an activist and leader of the early women’s rights movement— said, “The moment we begin to fear the opinion of others…the divine floods of light and life no longer flow into our souls.”
Three Categories of Thinkers
Over the years, I have found that when it comes to being receptive to ideas and perspectives other than their own, most people gravitate toward one of these tendencies:
- A need for the opinions of others. These individuals have not yet learned to value their own ideas and viewpoints. They are especially vulnerable to being swayed by others. When asked, they have a hard time expressing their own beliefs and convictions.
- A rejection of the opinions of others. People in this category are generally high achievers who have worked very hard to get where they are in life. For some, they view not having all the answers as a weakness, and their ego guards against this by rejecting the ideas of others. For others, their egos are so big, they think they know it all and just aren’t open to the ideas of others. If they do listen, they place little value on what’s being said.
- An interest in the opinions of others. Striking a balance between those who rely too heavily on the ideas of others and those who reject the opinions of others, these individuals welcome collaboration and actively seek it out. They understand the benefits of the wisdom that comes from the life experiences of others. These people would participate well in any type of team.
What’s important to realize is that whatever your natural tendency may be, it is possible to learn to appreciate the ideas of others. When you do, you’ll find that your ability to envision and implement new ideas will flourish and you’ll build stronger relationships in the process. Let’s take a look at how this works.
Changing the way you prefer to do something is always hard. At first, anything new may feel unnatural or artificial, and you may be anxious to see the results. Therefore, the first steps in learning to appreciate the ideas of others are believing that others can contribute something worthwhile, listening intentionally to them, and perhaps even changing your way of thinking. Knowing that the rewards will benefit you should help keep you motivated.
Letting others influence your plans and thought process with their ideas isn’t something that happens all at once. One way to begin is to identify one specific decision or project on which you will seek and consider some outside opinions. As you do, be aware of your natural defenses and give some thought as to how you will respond.
For example, what will you do if someone else’s idea requires you to reconsider a core element of your plan, such as a key marketing strategy? One suggestion is to ask questions to understand their intentions and learn as much as you can about the new idea. Do this until you have all the information you need for full consideration.
Listening to others or reading about the opinions of others can be a valuable tool, aiding in your research, adding to your knowledge, and enriching your life and performance.
Elbert Hubbard—an American philosopher, voluminous writer, and publisher of the 19th century—gives us a good reason why we should be receptive to the opinions of others. He wrote, “The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.”
Respecting the views and opinions of others is a vital life skill. Realize that their opinions have been formed by their experiences different than your own. Never tell someone that he or she is wrong. Bo Bennett says that doing that is “effective communication suicide.”
On the heels of having been intentional about considering the ideas of others, take some time to consciously reflect on the process. What worked well? What would you change next time? Perhaps most importantly, what did you learn? Don’t limit your definition of new knowledge to what is tangible. Consider too what you learn along the way about yourself and the people with whom you interact.
If you find that you have a tendency to reject others’ ideas or you do not take the time to listen because you are always too busy, now is a perfect time to make a decision to be more receptive. Trust me when I say, “It’s well worth the effort!”
Taking the time to listen to and understand others’ ideas is not only a desirable character trait that reflects positively on you, but it also enables you to learn new things and expands your capacity to think creatively.
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