Become A More Open Minded Leader As You Begin Your Firefighter Promotional Exam Journey

Becoming more open minded is not as simple as flipping a switch, it will take time to learn how to do it, like with any new skill. If you want to be successful in firefighter promotion, there is more to learn than just what is in the textbooks. 

  1. Avoid Confirmation Bias

A big step in becoming more open minded is avoiding confirmation bias. Confirmation bias is defined as, “cognitive bias that favors information that confirms with your previously existing beliefs or biases.” Confirmation bias makes it so a person who believes something will actively seek out information to prove their way of thinking, as well as interpret any and all evidence on their beliefs as support for them.  Versus an open minded person who seeks out all sides of thought in a situation to fully understand the entirety of it. A good way to help check your confirmation bias would be to start slowly by doing more research on the opposing side of things you like or believe in. This is not in an attempt to make you switch sides on the matter, just to learn and understand other perspectives. This is really a form of empathy, understanding where others, who oppose your view, are coming from. Start simple, maybe your favorite brand of truck is Ford, actively seek out why people don’t like Fords, start with internet research then talk to people who prefer other types of trucks. Be willing to have a thoughtful discussion on the matter. Being able to check your own beliefs and actively seek out the opinions of others is critical to becoming more open minded. 

  1. Ask Questions & Be Curious

Another way to become more open minded in your thinking is to become less angry and more curious. Before speaking your opinion on something, learn more about what the other person has to say by asking questions instead of immediately defending your own point of view. Become less defensive and more curious. By asking questions you are expanding your knowledge on something you are likely passionate about in the first place. Just having a conversation with someone about something you don’t necessarily agree with does not mean you are changing your point of view on the matter. It means you are a kind person who is able to listen and learn about something, even if they don’t agree with it. As a leader in the fire service this will become a crucial skill to have as you will encounter a myriad of people in your career you will have to listen to and interact with. Doing so is much easier if you already have open minded thinking. You will avoid much confrontation, and absolutely will learn much about the people around you and get new perspectives on so many aspects of the job and life in general. 

  1. Get Out Of Your Comfort Zone

Do new things you have never done before. Interact with people you normally wouldn’t if you can respectfully. Try new travel destinations, new restaurants, new cultures. If you want to be more-open minded you need to get out of your comfort zone and explore places, people, and activities that allow you to see new things. In doing so you will meet people you may not agree with politically or maybe foods you may have seen as “gross” before actually trying them. Putting yourself in a position of trying new things in a new space you are unfamiliar with is key to growing in open minded thinking. A lot of narrow minded thinkers have so many preconceived notions about people and things they have never even experienced, so you must put yourself out there. If you are always just doing things that you are comfortable with and agree with, there is no opportunity for you to expand your mind and your thinking. You have to try new things to learn new things and to learn to be more open minded. Do not do this yet though if you are unable to do so respectfully. This is where you will have to do some major self reflection before this step of the process begins. 

  1. Control Your Emotions

Something open minded people are excellent at is controlling their emotions. Instead of getting angry because someone disagrees with them, they take the opportunity to learn more about their perspective instead of argue. Open minded people learn to disagree through respectful discussion and conversation versus arguments. Controlling your emotions can be hard to do if it is something you struggle with, but it is possible to change. One way to start is to identify what triggers your big emotions and try to look inward and see why that may be. Learn to pause and breathe when you feel those big emotions coming on and even excuse yourself and walk away for as long as necessary to compose yourself versus lashing out on someone else. Instead of feeling attacked by someone who disagrees with you or is questioning you, reframe it into a learning opportunity. By having this conversation that used to make you upset, you now get the opportunity to learn something new about someone else's experience. See every confrontation as a growth opportunity. Emotional control is not something that can happen overnight. As I’m sure you have noticed, most adults do not have this one figured out, it requires a lot of work and effort. However, having control over your emotions will be so beneficial as you move up the ranks in the fire service as well as your everyday life so the work will be worth it in the end. 

  1. Don’t Judge A Book By Its Cover

An easy way to start training your brain to be more open minded is to stop with the immediate judgment of people based on how they look. Everyone does it, everyone makes assumptions in their own heads about someone new immediately when they see them. Put a stop to that. You see someone new, you roll up to a scene and see a group of people, hold the judgment and assumptions. Actively tell your brain to stop. The more you do it, the more your brain will naturally just stop doing it all together. 

The Takeaway 

Becoming more open minded as a person is a lofty but essential goal if you want to be a leader in the fire service. People want to follow people who listen without judgment, who can have a thoughtful discussion versus a confrontation. Change your perspective on how you look at people, put yourself in uncomfortable situations as a way to learn more about those around you, check yourself when your brain starts being biased and slowly you will notice yourself becoming more open minded. Doing so will reduce the stress and confrontation in your life immensely and make you a leader people actually want to work under in the fire service.