THE BLOG
08/27/2011 11:34 am ET | Updated Oct 27, 2011

Are You Open and Tolerant?

We are fortunate to be living in a part of the world where there is great diversity, a mix of everything, like a salad bowl. This exposes -- in some ways pushes -- us to learn to become more tolerant, and to step out of our comfort zone to become unconditionally respectful of others.

We learn why it is important to be tolerant in order for us to be able to live in a prosperous society and in harmony. This is the best gift that has been given to us for expanding our consciousness. An expanded sense of understanding and compassion, not just for what seems similar to our conditioned mind, but for all -- unconditionally.

Judgments and misinterpretations create some of the biggest problems we are facing, but we all make them so often. We have a host of subjective opinions about each other based on self serving biased facts that have no solid foundations. Our personal theories about each other separate us, create tension, conflict and affects the way we view the world and interact with each other.

Studies show that there is a link between health and being open and tolerant. If that is not enough, people who spend less time hating, blaming, judging unfairly, resenting and being angry usually have more energy doing something fun, good and positive -- for themselves or for others. When we learn to become open and tolerant, new doors of awareness open up. We learn to become less biased and more objective. People who are more objective are better problem solvers, better at conflict resolution and better communicators. They function less out of fear and more from a place of reason.

Here are some questions we can ask ourselves to see if we are a tolerant or an open person. When going through these questions, don't be too tough on yourself since we are, after all, only humans and may at times slip here and there a little. In other words, don't judge yourself; be tolerant of yourself, and open your heart for the change within. Only then you can reflect that to the world around you.

1. Are you open to learning new things? The more you open your mind's box and let information pour in, the bigger it gets. When you start judging something or someone negatively, it is your mind's signal that you need more information about it.

2. Do you listen carefully to others? When you ask a question or carry a conversation, are you really listening or are you looking for words to respond and get engulfed into your own thought and mind set? Do you get defensive and shut yourself up to what is being said? Do you do a self serving bias and only let in what fits your set of thought and filter the rest out?

3. Do you ask real questions to get to the depth of something you don't understand? What type of information are you looking for and where do you try to find them? Do you value your mind enough to make sure only the good stuff gets in, or do you let toxins in with words and manipulated information from sources that have no base or integrity?

4. Have you learned to deal with your irrational and conditioned fears? The irrational fears many of us carry is like carrying a useless and heavy baggage which drains us, misguides us, blocks us from experiencing life fully and bends us when we need to stand upright.

5. Do you find ways to connect with people who may seem different than you on the surface? For example, how often do you choose to socialize with people from different cultures or religious background? Do you ask an attractive co-worker out if she has a different faith? Would you befriend someone whose political views is not the same as yours, but seems like a genuinely good person to you?

6. Do you try to stay in the moment when interacting with people? Tying in with listening, staying in the moment means really making an effort, right in that moment, to connect with someone else. Don't think about the things you have to do later. Don't worry about what you didn't get done that day. Be present. It's very difficult to be open when you are thinking about something else. Your mind is closed to a new connection when you are thinking about the past or the future. Be there, in the moment, and you will be much more successful in establishing an open, interesting connection with others.

7. Do you stop yourself when you're judging someone? It takes certain will power and courage for someone to learn to train his mind to stop when he is judging unfairly based on his own projections, being unaware of the facts or simply being stressed out. Many times we judge people to put them at an inferior level so that we can cover our own insecurities. This one needs a strong minded individual to really dig in and get to the root. But a quick fix is to just stop the judgmental thought and behavior and turn the switch off. Practice makes perfect with this one.

8. Can you train yourself to have a scientist mind? In science, if something is categorized as a fact, it is real; whereas a theory is speculative and it remains debatable. So a good scientist carefully distinguishes the two. Most of us, in real life, function based on our own theories of how things "should" be. Our expectations, opinions and interpretations frequently distort how we view each other -- and how we communicate. The more we train our scientific mind, the more objective we can view life.

At the end, it is normal for us to have preferences and some comfort zone of functioning, but it is not normal to think that those who are not in our comfort zone are bad, inferior, unworthy or second class. What makes us who we are is rooted in our diversity, which started since the beginning of our humanity. But at the base, we all share a common ground: our collective consciousness.

We all share this base of humanity and are trying to work our way through it to get to our fullest potential. Some of us get lost on the way, some have more struggles to find the way, some have it easier, but at the end the base and the foundation is the same. The less we judge, the more we give others the option to experience their own identity and their own experience with life. Life gets better for all of us where we live in a society where people are given the chance to experience their identity and their life without being judged. A society where people feel accepted and supported but at the same time responsible for their choices.

Roya R. Rad, MA, PsyD
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