Americans are more divided and polarized than ever before. Calls for unity have intensified as the Biden administration takes office, but no one seems to agree on how to achieve that seemingly elusive civil society.
After years of political disagreement and discord, are Americans finally ready to listen and learn? As many have come to understand, practicing open-mindedness is easier said than done. Many of us seem to be stuck in hardened belief systems, making discourse around any subject feel arduous and stressful.
Listen: Adam Grant on the importance of re-thinking our beliefs.
Adam Grant is an organizational psychologist at Wharton and is the New York Times bestselling author of four books. His newest book, “Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know,” examines the importance of questioning our opinions and embracing humility. Grant says achieving open-mindedness means adopting a humble approach to debate. “I think it means being careful not to think too much like a preacher, prosecutor, or a politician… I think a good path to become a little more open is to be more like a scientist… people who prefer humility over pride,” says Grant on the importance of open-mindedness. Grant adds that having the humility to rethink long-held beliefs is particularly important for those who have assumed power in American society. “In general, it’s people in positions of power that need to do the rethinking… If you’re a member of a non-dominant group or a group that hasn’t been marginalized, you’ve had to do a lot of twisting of your beliefs to fit in,” says Grant.
America has seen an uptick in the embrace of conspiracy theories, something Grant says is a result of hardening beliefs rather than receptiveness. “I don’t think openness means you’re open to faulty arguments,” says Grant, adding that openness means being willing to change your mind when you see more compelling arguments and better data.