Confidence and an Open Mind

Which comes first confidence or an open mind?

Opening a mind

The first recollection I have of an open mind comes from my college days. A rhetoric professor assigned us the task of writing a 500-word paper on any controversial topic of our choice. The following week he had us write the opposing position.

My reaction to the second assignment was “I can’t do that. I just laid out all of the reasons for my beliefs” Once I got past this emotional reaction and constructed opposing arguments, I realized that there was validity to the opposition’s position.

This was a truly eye-opening, mind-expanding exercise. Ever since this exercise I’ve looked for validity in both my initial reaction and countervailing arguments. I’ve been thinking about things in this was for so long that it’s become automatic.

While it has helped me be more confident in my ability, as others suggest, to see things others don’t see, I can’t help but wonder if confidence was needed to be open to that exploration in the first place.

Confidence and openness

In the aforementioned assignment I didn’t really have much of a choice. I either completed the exercise or took a hit to my grade point average. But would I have been as open to alternative ways of thinking had it not been for this exercise?

I don’t know that I have a definitive answer to that question. I can’t undo the experience and relive my life from that point. I can, however, recall experiences with both consistently confident and rarely confident people. Here’s what I recall.

Confident people are more open to new ideas. They view new information as a means to learn and grow. They aren’t concerned about protecting their ego or image. Their only measure of growth is against their own personal best. These are characteristics of consistently confident people.

Conversely, rarely confident people often become defensive when their thinking is challenged by new ideas…alternative ways of looking at things. They feel that acknowledging another idea somehow diminishes them and their credibility with others. They worry about making a mistake and what impact that mistake will have on others’ perception of them. Understandably so. The unfortunate reality is that they’re going to think less of themselves if they find another idea has more merit than theirs.

For you

Which life would you prefer to live? That of the consistently confident or rarely confident? If you’d prefer former here’s a simple tip…perform the assignment my professor gave me.

The more often that you explore both sides of an issue, the more quickly you’ll realize that there is always validity to both positions. You’ll still be inclined to lean one way or the other, but you won’t be so quick to dismiss others’ ideas. Nor will you feel that acknowledging legitimacy to others’ thinking has any impact on your perception of yourself. That, in turn, allows you to care less about others’ perception of you.

Remember, acknowledging another’s position and its legitimacy doesn’t mean that you accept their position. It merely respects their rights to their beliefs.

What you’ll discover is that as you become more openminded, your confidence will grow and you’ll move more to the consistently confident end of the confidence spectrum.

For our kids

As you see your kids becoming defensive over others’ countervailing arguments, remind them that:

  • Opposing positions often lead to greater insights and common ground for growth and agreement.
  • Acknowledging others’ positions doesn’t mean that you accept those positions, it simply means you respect others’ rights to their beliefs.
  • Acknowledging a better idea enhances rather than diminishes their self-image as well as others’ perception of them as a confident person.
  • Then encourage them to explore both sides of an issue before making a choice. It’ll not only enhance their confidence, it’ll help them make better choices.

By the way, don’t forget to live these messages. Kids tend to believe us more when they see us living the message and observe the amazing results we get from doing so.

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