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Open-Minded

This week, share a story about the rewards — and challenges — of engaging before judging.

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We often exhort others — and ourselves — not to judge a book by its cover. To resist stereotypes. To give people, places, and experiences a chance before making up our minds about them. In reality, all of us come short sooner or later: it takes patience and effort to stay truly (and consistently) open-minded.

But the rewards are real. I recently chatted with Shivya Nath, the globetrotting travel blogger behind The Shooting Star, a site where she chronicles her trips and offers tips and resources for aspiring adventurers. In the resulting Discover interview, Shivya talks about her trips and her work as a self-sustaining, full-time blogger. But it was Shivya’s insights on how to approach the unfamiliar, based on numerous encounters with strangers around the world, that have really stayed with me:

I’ve come to realize that our perception of the world is seriously flawed. In Honduras, notorious for being the “most violent place on earth,” I lived with local hosts who don’t even bother locking their doors at night (their biggest fear is that the neighbor’s dog might steal their chihuahua’s food!). In my solo travels in India, I’ve witnessed overwhelming kindness from people who really don’t have much else to offer. I’ve learnt that judging a place and its people before you engage deeply is like judging a book by its cover. People from around the world, no matter how different from you and me on the surface, have the same heart and the same insecurities — and when we travel without preconceived notions, we discover that in beautiful, unexpected ways.

For this week’s Discover Challenge, share a post about a time when staying open-minded paid off — or didn’t. Or tell us about an experience where, despite your best efforts, you couldn’t quite make the necessary leap of faith. It could also be about an encounter you had where someone else gave you the benefit of the doubt, or disappointed you with a superficial judgment. Your post can come in any format or style — from a poem to a photo essay to a piece of memoir, or anything else, really. (We’re open-minded like that!)

I look forward to seeing your takes on this topic!

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  1. When I was younger I moved to a town no one ever heard of. A town I was afraid of. I had so many misconceptions of what I was moving into and how I would be received. I was angry and pissed off so upon my arrival I got the worse of what I imagined, But not by all.I was wrong, while a handful were cruel and vicious overall it ended up being a wonderful and surprisingly amazing experience. I met so many amazing people, experienced different walks of life and saw so many new wonders. I was growing in ways I never imagined and becoming stronger and taller. I was starting to find my voice. As an adult when the opportunity presented itself for me to move to another place I never heard of I was excited not pissed off or scared. I was thrilled I would once again see new people and places while expanding myself. I have lived a life always on the move. Moving from one place to another and I never would or could have imagined that the place I never heard of, the place I thought I hated would be the place that would lead to me finding my true self and home. I continue to be grateful that I keep expanding my lifes experience by challenging the ideas of what makes a place feel like home.
    Always take the opportunity to meet a new person, go to a new place and learn about yourself by challenging your ideas of life.

    Liked by 7 people

      1. I understand you. Community pool. Is just a place to meet new bloggers and a place to advertise your blog and blog posts. Using links… welcome..😊 I did the same thing when I was starting it out…

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  2. Over the course of my life, I’ve traveled to multiple countries. As a child, it was Mexico, to visit family. As an adult, I’ve been to Germany, Ireland, Romania, Kuwait, Canada and Iraq. I’ll be honest, those were the countries I had to pass through, in order to deploy to Iraq, so I didn’t get to do any touristy stuff. I hope to fix that one day. In either case, when going into new situations like that, I refuse to allow myself any preconceived notions. Then again, I’m not overly social, so I’m not generally known for walking up to total strangers.

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    1. engmed1977…… When I travel, whether it is with the military or with family, I try to take in the local culture and food in order to get the full experience and be more open-minded. I have been to Canada, Mexico, Japan, Cambodia, Korea, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Germany, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and England. Some of these, like you, I was passing through on deployment, but most I had the great opportunity to be TDY in or visiting.

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  3. In a rare YOLO mood I tried a ballroom dancing class in university. I tremendously /suck/ at dancing, but this was a beginner’s class and the first lesson was free, so I thought I’d keep an open mind and try it out.

    DEEP REGRETS. The most uncomfortable and dragged out 1.5 hours of my life. I still have an open mind about ballroom dancing itself, but not if it’s a beginner’s class in a /university/. I went alone – major mistake. Everyone else had attended with people they knew. So, I was passed from one person to the next, and my partners were constantly chatting with their friends beside them, or they were too uncomfortable to really touch me. I left feeling like I wasn’t worthy of even 10 seconds of a stranger’s attention, I felt ugly, I felt clumsy. I scurried home and took a day or so to recover and feel like myself again.

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    1. It’s good to put yourself out there from time to time: YOLO moments approved!, but I have also had similar experiences, I think it’s often worth taking care to make sure the environment you put yourself out there in is a good one! – I went to a beginner Muay Thai (martial art class) years ago, and it turned out most people were experienced, we were supposed to do 200 sit ups in the warm up.. Never felt so awkward!

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      1. It’s true. In retrospect, I should have been able to see it coming (my ballroom dancing situation).

        But the pessimistic foresight that usually protects also causes me to miss out on many [probably very rewarding] spontaneous opportunities. It’s hard to know when to listen to it.

        Wow, beginner Muay Thai and people were already doing 200 sit ups? I’m kinda scared to hear what the intermediate and advanced classes are like! Did you stick it through and keep going back?

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  4. I try to be open-minded and it embarrasses me to say that it doesn’t take much to trigger the inner judgmental person in me. I think it’s worsened when I try my best to maintain neutrality and they just want to keep pushing my buttons where I give up and start judging them. For example, the my friend had a car in front of someone’s house to quickly run to pick up her driver’s ID that she forgot. The car was running and in P. That’s when the owner decided to come out, calling out more members to come out, and start yelling at me to move the car because they want to play in front of the house. I politely told them that the driver is on her way back and that we’ll be moving in a minute or two. They refused to hear it and surrounded the car, yelling and cursing. My friend was in the wrong too for being on someone’s property but I did not see a reason why they had to be so impatiently hostile.

    I was in a notoriously racist neighborhood and I tried to suppress my stereotype of the people, but I ended up leaving that neighborhood with strong animosity. Now, when I hear someone say they’re from that neighborhood, something in me just shuts them out and I just can’t get myself to not judge them.

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  5. Sometimes we’ll believe in stereotypes or opinions society may have on a certain group or subject and we’ll believe those, instead of discovering for ourselves.

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