The open-minded and the cocksure

English: rooster Magyar: kakas

Do you have an open mind? Why would you want to have an open mind?

Having an open mind makes you less judgemental. Being less judgemental makes you a better observer of things. You can see things from various people’s perspectives, put yourself in others’ shoes, feel what they feel. You don’t go around with a pre-set mould trying to fit people and situations into it.

I think this open mindedness is a very important quality in a writer. The less open minded you are, the less you see things around you. The less you feel what others feel. The less eyes you have to see with.

Sadly, having an open-minded personality brings  some pitfalls with it.

“The trouble with having an open mind, of course, is that people will insist on coming along and trying to put things in it” (Terry Pratchett)

An open mind is often mistaken as a sign of weakness. As an inability to take a stand.

This is where the cocksure person comes in. S/he finds an open mind a devious opportunity.

The cocksure person’s perspectives are hardly ever exploratory and always clearly argumentative, often aggressively so. At worst, such position becomes fanatical. At best it silences, not convinces most of the time.

Such cocksure variety of writers unfortunately like to buzz around open minded writers because they feel it’s an easy entry into a “soft” argument. Having repelled other cocksure people around them, they approach the decent open-minded person.

They feel sure in their arrogance that they can put their half-baked cookie-cutter ideas into the open mind and propagate their ideas.

When their cocksure cookies (pardon the alliteration) are only half-baked, they crumble easily.

But there is the the odd, brilliant, cocksure argument that will clamp on the open mind, stifle it and prove that exploration is getting lost, empathy is folly, seeing another perspective is immorality and a lack of answers to a debatable point is a  weakness.

Cocksuredness has managed to elicit the support of a lot of our already existing social tropes regarding masculinity, the superiority of logic over other approaches to thinking, loyalty, strength of personality, intelligence, leadership and so many other things.

But dominance does not have a good place amongst writing strategies. Being cocksure about a position is never compatible with being a good writer.

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25 thoughts on “The open-minded and the cocksure”

    1. “Open-minded” is a very vague term, that can mean a wide variety of things: acceptance of new ideas, extreme cultural relativism, liberal social beliefs, simple tolerance, and even anarchy. The people in my life who have most vociferously labelled themselves as “open-minded” have generally proven to be the least tolerant of people who aren’t like them, but some of the people who from the outside look very rigid in their beliefs (including a couple Catholic priests, a Buddhist priest and a whole lot of Orthodox rabbis) are the most accepting and loving towards people they disagree with.

      That said, people who are accepting of others’ differences (“open-minded” that other people don’t have to be exactly like them, as opposed to being so “open-minded” that they refuse to stand for anything–and believe you shouldn’t stand for anything either) make MUCH better writers. If you can put yourself in someone else’s head, seeing the logic behind actions that from the outside look completely irrational, your writing becomes instantly more convincing.

      Also, if you are open-minded in the sense that you believe you make mistakes, you leave a lot more room to let yourself grow.

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  1. I love this post! I’ve always considered myself open-minded (although I’m sure I’ve been cocksure at times) and the more I write (and live) the more I appreciate just being open. I’ve always been the type to sit back and listen/observe, seeing both (all) sides of a situation before I start talking. Or at least, listening to all sides after I start talking. Then people (maybe) think I’m flakey, apathetic, or weak, but more and more I’m finding out how much strength there actually can be in this. You hit the nail on the head with this post.

    I’m also really glad that you found my blog because now I can follow you too! Thanks for the great writing.

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  2. I think there’s a middle ground here, given that chronic open-mindedness can lead to wish-washy thinking. Be open-minded, collaborative even, let your opinion stew (instead of bake, metaphorically) but then serve it up with pride and confidence. Far different than barging cocksuredness. Like this post, by the way.

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    1. Great point. I worry about this myself. Too many perspectives can sometimes lead to a shifty stance rather than a nuanced stance.

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  3. I’m intrigued about what is going on behind the words you wrote. For someone claiming open-mindedness, you seem pretty sure of yourself. By this I mean, you seem bugged. Where does masculinity come into play here? Is it possible you’re speaking less of open-mindedness and more of gullibility? Thanks, as always, for your deep thinking! I look forward to more clarity into your motivation.

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    1. 🙂 Maybe I’ve appeared “cocksure” myself! I *was* going to write more about gender but I didn’t want the post to become about masculinity.

      What I meant was that being sure about things is often seen as an essential part of the alpha male personality. Both men and women suffer because of this. Some men, especially nuanced writers, often have to defend their “sensitive” stance in case they are thought of as effeminate.

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  4. I would love to know what prompted this particular post, whether it was one thing or a combination.

    I often see being cocksure, in the cocksure himself, as evidence itself of the implicit truth of a proposition. I’m struggling recently to figure out how to get people to understand that feeling a thing, no matter how strongly, does not make truth.

    And I’m trying to seek truth with more of an open mind, and to see if by approaching with a question rather than an aggressive exclamation others around me might be so moved.

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    1. No one thing really. A combination. Just the idea that conceiving a pluralistic idea of “truth” requires a more sophisticated intelligence which is seen as weakness by the not so nuanced!

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