Developing an Outward Mindset

How do you deal with people who seem shortsighted or grossly misinformed? It’s a question many are asking in today’s political climate, and one that many struggle to answer.

Professor Ben Cook recently addressed this question with a group of BYU Law students and provided them some insight on how to best operate in an increasingly polarized world. The answer, Professor Cook said, is straightforward: develop an outward mindset.

Our mindset is at the heart of everything we do; it drives our thoughts, behaviors, and interactions with others. An inward mindset, Professor Cook explained, is one in which other people do not matter. Those with an inward mindset focus only on self and view other people as objects. An outward mindset, by contrast, helps us recognize that other people matter like we matter. It sees people as people and treats them with kindness and respect.

“When we go about our day, we go about it with one of these two mindsets,” Professor Cook stated. “ When it comes to politics, which are we using? Are we viewing individuals—especially those who disagree with us—as objects or as people?”

Developing an outward mindset allows us to reduce the feelings of polarization and animosity so common among those who disagree, and will make political discussions both more productive and more positive.

Not only does an outward mindset make discussions more productive, but it also allows us to more effectively change others. “People often assume that they can influence others without first changing themselves. An outward mindset, however, is absolutely necessary for changing someone, a political view they hold, or a certain behavior you dislike,” Professor Cook further explained. “You have to have an outward mindset, build a relationship, listen and learn, teach and communicate, and then, finally, correct.”

Ultimately, an outward mindset is vital to have a civil, productive, political discourse. It has the power to reduce polarization, increase understanding, and dissolve much of the animosity that exists today.

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