Techniques for Keeping, Encouraging an Open Mind

Tuesday, April 13, 2021


When you’re pretty sure you’ve got your facts straight or are on the right side of the fence on an issue, it’s hard to question your knowledge or opinion, even when new evidence is presented. But that’s exactly what organizational psychologist Adam Grant suggests we do in order to stay open to learning and have a growth mindset.

Jill Suttie of UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center recently interviewed Grant and inquired about ways we can all go about rethinking what we think we know.

His suggestion is to be a “super-forecaster:” When you form an opinion, make a list of conditions that would change your mind. That keeps you honest because once you get attached to an opinion, it’s really hard to let it go. But if you identify factors that would change your mind up front, you keep yourself flexible.

If you’re in the position of encouraging other people to think again about what they know, try to avoid “argument dilution,” Grant advises. That’s when we try to convince people with as many reasons as possible because we think that giving them more reasons makes it easier for them to change their mind.

But we forget that two things happen: The more reasons we give, the more we trigger the other person’s awareness that we’re trying to persuade them, and they put their guard up. Also, if they’re resistant, giving them more reasons allows them to pick the least compelling reason and throw out the whole argument.

The lesson is that if you have an audience that might be closed to your point of view, sometimes it’s more effective to give two reasons instead of five, leading with your strongest argument.