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  • Openness: A Personality Trait That Drives Connection

    Openness: A Personality Trait That Drives Connection

    Many of you may be familiar with the concept of “The Big 5 Personality Traits”. Gaining insight on our personality traits is a fun, and simple way to reflect on how our traits impact how we see and interact with the world. One of those traits, which we will focus on today, is “openness”.

    Having openness essentially indicates that a person is open to new ideas and new experiences. People high in openness are curious to learn about the world and other people. And they are often receptive to ideas that are different from what they are used to. Having openness in your life is also essential to feeling connected to yourself and others, as it is easier to empathize with our similarities rather than our differences. In a time where there is extreme polarization when it comes to subjects such as politics, religion, and culture, we could all certainly use an extra dose of openness.

    Not everyone can afford to travel and see the world, or to partake in activities that are different from what they normally have available. However, there are still many ways in which we can embrace the trait of being open-minded. Libraries have been, and still are free resources which allow us to learn about different ideas and cultures. Even if you pick up a fiction book, there is great imagination and empathy that can arise in the process of putting yourself in the shoes of another character or person. If you have social media, you can make a deliberate and mindful effort to follow sources that are known for objective reporting, not necessarily ones that show you the content you are used to seeing.

    If you would like to add more openness to your life but you are having difficulty doing so, then it may be worth asking yourself a few questions. Gaining better insight can help you understand where to start when it comes to adding more into your life. Here are a few points to reflect on if you notice yourself falling into a rut or lacking connection in your everyday life:

    1. Am I experiencing fear of the unknown?
      For some people, especially those raised in very strict or conservative households, there is sometimes comfort in familiarity. It may be easier to follow what you have always known, rather than indulge in a new idea that may contradict what you have been taught. If you are at a stage in which you want to embrace the new ideas, that is great. But if you are at a stage in which you fear what your family and friends may say or judge you on, then you may be keeping back from developing openness in order to keep the peace. It is also possible that you have a firm identity, and introducing a new idea or concept may feel uncomfortable for you. Exploring these fears may be helpful in order to add more openness into your life, and therefore more connection to others.
    2. Do I have certain preferences due to my sensory profile?
      We all naturally experience the world differently not only due to our personalities, but also due to how we process sensory information from our environment. If this is the case, then we cannot necessarily change our sensory profile, however we can learn to change our thinking process behind our preferences. For example, if you are a picky eater and tend to stick to the same sensory-safe meals, then you might not enjoy trying foods from a different culture. However, rather than shunning the cuisine altogether, you can change the narrative that you maintain in your mind. You could reframe your thoughts into, “I didn’t like that particular meal, but there might be another meal from this country that is similar to what I enjoy.” Or you could also reframe your thoughts this way: “I am not fond of this cuisine, but I appreciate the creative use of those spices together.” We can’t force ourselves to make drastic preference changes, but we can take a moment to appreciate and reflect on our experiences. This can make a big difference in terms of how we feel.
    3. Am I afraid of changing who I am?
      So this is the beautiful thing about being willing to experience more openness. You can absolutely appreciate other ideas, while finding the benefits of doing things your own traditional way. You can learn from others and experience awe at the way others do things, and still choose your own routine and preferences on a daily basis. There are strengths to having your own viewpoints. For example, different generations tend to have differences in parenting. Although we have more research now to show us what parenting methods work best, there are still some age-old strategies that just make sense. We have a lot to learn from veteran parents and grandparents.  Ultimately, being more open and more connected is about taking in new ideas and information, while maintaining authenticity in who you are. By reducing judgment and close-mindedness, we can all connect more, even when we continue being different.