Chris Lakin


How to determine whether someone is open-minded with one test.

Sometimes I'll talk to someone about a contentious topic (often diet or happiness), and I’ll find myself irritated. I think I’ve determined why, and it lies in a subtle distinction in the way the person argues.

When you pose a point, do they immediately make counter-statements based on what they thought you said, or do they ask questions?

Because of course you—nor anyone for that matter—couldn’t explain an entire philosophy in a few sentences during a conversation, for example. Nor could you explain all research in a field, and perry all counterarguments in 30 seconds. (That’s what books are for!?) And especially not impromptu! Yet, this, frustratingly, seems to me to be the implicit assumption in this kind of reaction.

Do they really think that the people who have spent so much time on this idea haven’t also thought about the counterargument that two seconds and no prior knowledge to come to?

It can be vexing to interact with people who tend to make statements about their opinions and counterpoints before they ask questions to confirm that if they really know what they think you’re saying.

Instead, such people merely reiterate what they know, and reject what is being posited because they don’t already believe it.

Ask questions before you make statements.

But if someone commits this fallacy, that’s okay— now that you’ve quickly determined that they’re not truly open-minded, and you can avoid them as a close friend.

And should you desire to learn how to be resilient to the perturbation of irritating individuals, see Stoicism.


Posted 2020 August 3, last updated 2020 November 25.