When it comes to your personality, you may wonder how changeable it is. According to Myers and Briggs, personality cannot change at all – you are born a certain type and you stay that type forever. More recently, scientists have found that subtle shifts in personality can and do take place over time. Age, relationships, situations and experiences can all influence a person's outlook and attitude.
So, is it possible to become more open minded? The answer is quite possibly. There are a few factors you’ll want to look at to figure out how much flexibility you can build into your worldview.
Factor One: The Big Five personality system
Openness is one of the traits of the Big Five personality system, alongside Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness and Neuroticism. In this personality theory, Openness refers to one’s openness to new experiences and ideas, so those who score high on the “Openness to Experience” scale tend to prefer abstract thinking and are more adventurous. They’re also more creative and intellectual than others who score lower on Openness.
On the flip side, if you score lower in Openness, you’re more of a traditionalist who prefers practicality and concrete thought over abstraction. You may have more difficulty embracing new ideas and experiences, preferring the status quo and the tried-and-true.
Some research in Big Five theory suggests that people with high Openness have more connections between distinct areas of the brain. This suggests that your Openness is something innate and perhaps unchangeable – although it’s not entirely cut and dried.
Factor Two: Nature and nurture
Psychological research suggests both nature and nurture help determine your personality — including traits like how open minded you are. That means your genetics and environment both factor into your level of Openness. So no matter the influence of nature, or innate personality, if you’re looking to become more open minded, the environment you surround yourself with can help.
As an example of how nurture can affect your open-mindedness, imagine you live in a traditional small town full of people who are less Open on the Big Five. Modeling after a certain mentality could limit your scope and leave you skeptical of new ideas and experiences if that’s all you’ve been exposed to.
Although much debate persists about how much nature and nurture contribute to personality (if they both do, or if only one of these does), the thought that nurture can help points to some degree of trait malleability through a conscious selection of where you live, who you spend time with and how you move through life.
Factor Three: Personal development and exposure
Personality theories suggest your personality type doesn’t change — but that doesn’t mean you can’t change within your type, for example by strengthening your strengths and working on your weaknesses. Sometimes, your limited life experiences can make you think that you are less open minded than you actually are, simply because you haven’t been exposed to certain things and thus have not had an opportunity to work on this area of your development.
For example, say you’ve never tried a specific type of cuisine because your family members said it was terrible. Because you’ve listened to them and trusted this opinion without trying it for yourself, you’ve let this aversion to a particular food grow. You may be closed-minded about trying this food, but when was the last time you made yourself go through that uncomfortable first bite of something different? A first bite may lead you to a new favorite, and the more cuisines you try, you may become less closed off to eating new things.
Tips for becoming more open-minded
You may not think you can change, but there are some ways you can improve your open-mindedness, even if it’s more out of your habits than your natural response to things. Making a change stick isn’t easy, but you can change your habits with dedication.
Here are some tips for becoming more open-minded:
- Don’t form an immediate opinion on an issue. Learn to recognize your biases, and instead of reaching for the same conclusion, read several sources of research and learn to think critically. Is that traditional ideal you’ve clung to relevant? Or do you see the argument for change?
- Explore new things. Sure, this isn’t easy for someone who doesn’t find new experiences thrilling. But facing your uncomfortable emotions may teach you how to overcome preconceived ideas about your dislikes.
- Delve into a new book or music genre. For example, maybe you thought all fantasy was uninteresting—but one book could change your mind.
- Surround yourself with a variety of people. You can learn from their interpretations and views on life.
- Embrace a curious mindset. Instead of formulating an instant opinion or trying to solve a problem, step back and ask questions to further your understanding of a subject.
- Learn about different cultures and what they bring to the world. Visit new places, read about different ways of living, or take a road trip somewhere new.
- Take on a new hobby — this small step could open your mind to other activities.
- Consume different forms of media. Ideally, take a look at how the same subject is presented from different perspectives, through books, podcasts, music or documentaries.
- Admit that you aren’t always right about disliking something. This can help you embrace uncomfortable changes to your tastes or opinions.
- Ask your friends to give you advice on how to become a better listener — sometimes, people who are less open to experiences can shut down their loved ones when discussing specific topics. But they may have something important to say that you can learn from.
Summing it up
Is it possible to become more open minded? The answer is yes — if you choose to work on your habits and examine your actions. Although you may not be able to transform your Big Five personality type, you can learn how to adapt better (and even enjoy) some new experiences and ideas. This doesn’t mean you’re going to change from a pragmatic thinker to an abstract one, but if you try to embrace some novel ideas and experiences, you may become less stringent in avoiding the new.