By Claire Louge, Executive Director
Think of something that you know to be true. You believe in this. You have strong conviction you are right about this. You are passionate about it. You may even identify with this belief – it is a critical part of you.
Got it? Now let me ask you this:
How do you know that it’s right? How did you learn that it was true? And importantly: what, if anything, could change your mind?
At a bookstore in San Francisco last month, I picked up Think Again by Adam Grant. In it, he explains that the questions above, which promote metacognition (thinking about your thinking), are foundational to the practice of open-mindedness. And open-mindedness is the essential ingredient for innovation, creativity, and collaboration.
These qualities are critically important in our field – the field of people who work to strengthen families and protect children. If we don’t question our own assumptions, or what we think we know, we may hold on to a belief that limits us from considering other ideas or options that may work better to achieve our ultimate goal: that all children are safe, nurtured, and thriving. When we don’t question our thinking, we are permitting ourselves to hold on to biases that we may not even realize we have.
Questioning what we know, however, can be deeply challenging. It’s scary to question our own thinking because our beliefs tend to be foundational to our sense of self. The stronger our belief, the more we will do to protect it from being changed. That protection usually shows up as defensiveness, aggression or shutting down – which are ‘fight, flight or freeze’ behaviors – behaviors that show up when our bodies sense a threat to our survival.
To rethink or unlearn something we have thought to be true can be literally painful, but it is also deeply, powerfully courageous.
Rather than sticking to our guns and pointing those metaphorical guns at others who oppose us, when we are curious about our own thinking, and curious about other’s thinking, we leave the comfort of certainty so we can know a greater, more nuanced truth.
And that is the key to collaboratively moving forward.
It is the key to changing the things we want to change.
It is the key to shifting what dissatisfies us with the status quo. Because I don’t know anyone who is satisfied with the status quo.
We want families’ needs to be met. We want people to be healthy. We want to prevent child abuse so it never happens. To make change for the better, it starts with questioning what we know, and being curious about how others think, especially if they have a different perspective.
We need leaders who are willing to do this. Since we are all leaders in our own spheres of influence, we can all practice this open-mindedness.
To open your mind takes courage – and we need that courage now more than ever.