I always used to be (and still am, to an extent) nervous in social situations. I never felt like I knew what to say – what I strived to do was be willing to search ‘where you are coming from’ and ‘how it affects you’… I was trying to be as open-minded as possible, but sometimes it was a real challenge.

I’ve read Professor Riggs’s article, Open-mindedness. The ability to listen is a very important attribute, and it can allow you to expand your plans or goals more freely.

He describes two characteristics of open-mindedness:

  1. Self-knowledge about one’s cognitive weaknesses and strengths – the weaknesses include bias, overconfidence, and wishful thinking; and
  2. Self-monitoring – ‘If you are really self-aware, you might even notice characteristic gestures or body postures that you tend to adopt when overconfident, for example.


This was very interesting. Overconfidence and (unhelpful) thinking habits are, to a certain extent, always hidden.

When I worked for a software company in Tokyo, most of my colleagues were experts in graphic design, and they tended to be overconfident when making decisions. Their knowledge, endeavour and talent were significant, but they could also be closed off to considering alternative views – which meant that conflicts between designers were common.

There was NO problem at all with their technical knowledge and skills, but I became aware how often we forget to ‘self-monitor’ when working with others, especially in pressured situations.

This has some similarities with my current research: interactions in health contexts. Pressured for time, professionals tend to use directive responses to patients rather than pose open questions.

I agree that the key is listening. When you encounter a viewpoint that contradicts your own, it’s not difficult to ask an open question like ‘Can you tell me more about that?’ But, many of us find it difficult to follow-up with another open question to elicit further information, because it’s more comfortable to revert to our typical ways of thinking and our usual understanding of things.

So, in situations where I have the opportunity to listen, I’ve been experimenting with asking two or three open questions like:

  • ‘What are your expectations for that?’
  • ‘Can you help me understand that a little better?’
  • ‘What are the best things about it?’
  • ‘What concerns do you have?’


Being open-minded when you are surrounded by a variety of viewpoints will hopefully make the coffee break so much enjoyable, fun and interesting. 🙂