Four Keys to Being More Tolerant

Being tolerant means respecting other people's opinions, listening to them attentively, and opening one's mind. Find out how you can develop this ability!
Four Keys to Being More Tolerant

Last update: 12 June, 2021

Tolerance is a fundamental virtue that everyone should develop. Think about it. In our society, people interact with others on a daily basis. Firstly, being more tolerant can help you avoid arguments and interpersonal conflicts. In addition to this, it may allow you to learn other opinions and points of view. Why is it so difficult to be tolerant, then?

Human beings build their identity around their values, opinions, and beliefs. Therefore, they try to protect them. It’s normal for you to feel at risk when faced with a different perspective, especially one that completely contradicts your own.

Some individuals are quite inflexible and prone to dichotomous “black and white” thinking, and undoubtedly, this hinders their ability to think outside the box and accept other opinions. You can follow several strategies if you want to start being more tolerant.

Keys to being more tolerant

Recognize your own biases

As we mentioned above, it’s normal for you to try to keep your beliefs intact. In order to do this, you may come up with different cognitive biases. For example, you may seek and accept information that agrees with your ideas. Similarly, you may ignore or reject ones that contradict them. This process is usually automatic. Knowing this can help you open your mind.

Before invalidating an idea, think about why you’re doing it. Is it because it really doesn’t seem true or simply because it goes against your current opinion? You should also try to inform yourself of the different standpoints that exist. Allow yourself to be more educated. It’s okay to change your mind!

A woman learning the keys to being more tolerant.

Open up to diversity

If one thing’s true it’s that intolerance often arises from ignorance, from staying in closed social circles and environments. When this happens, it’s typical to resort to stereotypes to judge an entire group of people. Have you ever represented something huge by taking a small part of it? Let’s be honest, you probably have. We all do this at least once. But that doesn’t mean it’s right. To avoid this, there’s nothing better than opening yourself to different things.

Traveling, discovering other cultures, talking to people from different backgrounds and with varied opinions and interests can greatly broaden your perspective. Learning about other realities first-hand will help you to have a more open and tolerant attitude.

Listen to others actively

One of the keys to being more tolerant is definitely learning to listen to others. Many conversations nowadays are nothing more than power struggles to see who has the last word. It’s vital to find yourself interested in what the other person has to say in order to have a real conversation with them. Don’t try to simply refute their arguments and impose your opinion as if it’s the only valid one.

Active listening implies paying attention to what the other person is saying. Don’t hesitate to analyze what they’re saying. Reflect and ask questions if necessary. This will let the person know that they’re being heard, which is important. If you don’t understand their point of view, that’s fine. Just let them know so that they can explain the topic in an easier way.

This process won’t necessarily make you change your mind, but it’ll definitely allow you to understand what the other person’s motives are and empathize with them.

Don’t be afraid to change your mind, as it’s one of the keys to being more tolerant

Although it may not seem like it, intolerance sometimes reflects a fear of losing beliefs that you’ve had for a long time. Changing one’s mind isn’t easy because it implies acknowledging that we’ve been wrong, which can be perceived as a weakness or a failure.

This couldn’t be further from the truth, though. Double-checking is a wise thing to do, and there’s absolutely no shame in adopting a different attitude to facts that you didn’t know before. This reflects maturity and helps you grow as an individual.

A couple having a discussion.

Being more tolerant doesn’t imply changing your essence

First of all, remember that being tolerant doesn’t mean blindly agreeing with what another person thinks. It means that you respect them, no matter what your personal opinion is. Everyone has different preferences and interests.

Maybe you don’t share the same lifestyle as your friend, perhaps you don’t agree with your partner’s opinion on a particular issue, or you may not understand why someone else made a certain decision. However, intolerance will only generate suffering, anger, and restlessness and, on top of that, it’ll lead to interpersonal conflicts. Respect, listening, and a more flexible mindset will help you build harmonious relationships. It may even help you discover perspectives that you hadn’t taken into account.

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  • Festinger, L. (1962). Cognitive dissonance. Scientific American. 207 (4): 93-107.
  • Butrus, N., & Witenberg, R. T. (2013). Some personality predictors of tolerance to human diversity: The roles of openness, agreeableness, and empathy. Australian Psychologist48(4), 290-298.
  • Riso, W. (2007). El poder del pensamiento flexible: De una mente rígida a una mente libre y abierta al cambio. Editorial Norma