Go beyond the initial smirk

I like self-help books, Tony Robbins, and meditation. Have you stopped reading? Have you concluded “oh, he’s one of those people”?

If so, why? If not, I like you already. Either way, you should keep reading.

Socialism, meditation, diets. What do these have in common?

When you mention these words, you are likely to get a very positive, or a very negative reaction. And often, the reaction is simply a smirk and some version of “uh, not this again…,” which dismisses any discussion about the topic, even though it could be a helpful one. I have been on the receiving end of the smirk, and I’ve grown to notice it more in others as well as myself. It is a manifestation of skepticism and cynicism, and both of these are rarely constructive.

With that, let’s get to the exercise.

Step 1: Identify the “smirk” words.

What are the triggers that make you dismiss things? What are the people, things, or subject areas that make you go:

“yeah, that, my friend tried it and…”

“but that would never work”

“oh, those guys”

“yeah, I’ve heard about that and…”

“hmm, okay”

Step 2: Find the cause.

Why are you skeptical? What is the reason?

Often, scepticism is based on assumptions, rather than reasons. Or there could be a reason that seems plausible, but is actually untrue. Without a solid reason you may be overlooking opportunities to be helped or to enjoy something.

For instance, I used to dislike rap music. If someone listened to rap music near me, I might think “meh” and pretentiously ignore the person. Why did I shut my mind like that? I see no reason to. I could have enjoyed the music, but instead I reacted the way I did — negatively. If a person was really into rap, I suddenly had a “reason” to dislike them. How does that foster empathy? How does that attitude impact the world? Fortunately, Macklemore helped cure me of that.

Step 3: Open your mind. At least, keep calm and stay positive.

Closing one’s mind adds up to a lot of needless negativity in the world and doesn’t really help anyone. We should examine why certain things close our minds and we should use reason to open them once more. How much better would this world be if people did not dismiss other people and their ideas, and instead discussed them reasonably?

Use your cynicism wisely and skepticism sparingly.

Seek the opposite point of view.

Try before you judge.

Open your mind.

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