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Creating Successful Leaders

By Margaret Smith, UXL
SPEAKER | CAREER COACH | CERTIFIED INSIGHTS DISCOVERY PRACTITIONER

“If you ask most people, ‘Are you flexible or rigid?’ they’ll tell you they’re flexible,” says Howard Gardner, Harvard cognitive psychologist (as quoted in O Magazine, May 2005).

Most of us will claim to be open to change in our lives and opinions, but would you say that most people you meet are actually flexible? Probably not. This is because most of us practice what Gardner refers to as “fundamentalism” Although the term is most commonly used in reference to religion, it can also be used to describe our preference not to change our minds. “There’s fundamentalism—a commitment not to alter our opinions—in every sphere,” he explains.

Certainly, my own interactions with others (especially as a life coach) can attest to this notion!

So how do we open up our own minds and the minds of others to new ideas and ways of thinking?

The acclaimed psychologist offers some innovative suggestions for challenging our mindset and freshening up our convictions:

1. Subscribe to publications that cut across the political and scientific spectrum.

2. Seek out balanced arguments, instead of indulging in arguments that feed your preexisting beliefs.

3. Talk to people from different backgrounds to challenge your orthodoxy—travel!

4. Understand the resistance of others. Gardner suggests you do this by attempting to “draw the other person out” and “listen charismatically”.

5. Stop the attack and pursue insight instead by taking on the perspective of the other person.

6. Choose an agreeable point of entry. Gardner offers two less-direct strategies:
a) Find links between your case and individual points of appeal
b) demonstrate your willingness to be flexible by picking something you’ve been resisting and trying it (Gardner calls this
“embodiment”).

7. Mix up the meeting place. A change of context can help to break patterns of thought.

8. Think like a teenager (You’re probably thinking God help us!). Before you panic, understand that by this, Gardner means asking the question “What are the possibilities?” because the question opens “a wider panorama” of possibilities.

Hopefully you will be able to successfully rethink your own convictions and encourage those around you to do the same with these interesting and useful tactics for changing your mindset!

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