The Benefits of Being More Open

The Benefits of Being More Open

Learn about openness to experience, change, and communication. Discover your level of openness as a personality trait.

In terms of human personality, openness is a trait that helps describe a person’s behavior and tendencies. Openness exists on a spectrum; some people are high in openness, meaning they fully embrace all of the experiences life has to offer, both good and bad. On the other end of the spectrum are people low in openness. People who are low in openness tend to be closed off from the world and avoid new or different experiences as much as possible.

Every human is unique and there is no “right” or “wrong” way to be. Some people are just naturally more closed off, reserved, and careful. Being closed off can sometimes be a protective mechanism if you have been hurt or betrayed in the past. However, learning to be more open and embrace all of the possibilities life has to offer can have a number of benefits for your mental and physical well-being.

Benefits of Openness

Besides opening new doors, openness has been associated with a number of other benefits. One study found that people with more openness to experience achieved more knowledge attainment and better learning results than people who were closed off (von Stumm, 2017). Openness to experience was an even better predictor of knowledge attainment than intellectual curiosity. This suggests that openness is a more important personality trait in terms of academic achievement than intellectual curiosity.

In addition to academic achievement, openness can influence your cultural intelligence which is the ability to work with and understand people from various backgrounds and cultures. Research has found that individuals with a higher degree of openness display a higher level of cultural intelligence (Li et al., 2016). With the increasingly global nature of the world, this can be an incredibly useful skill to have.

Do you struggle with social anxiety? Another benefit of openness is that it can help mitigate feelings of social anxiety. One study found that individuals who displayed a higher level of openness reported fewer feelings of social anxiety (Kaplan et al., 2015). This was especially true for individuals who reported low feelings of trust.

“Renewal requires opening yourself up to new ways of thinking and feeling”
― Deborah Day

Exercise: How Open Are You?

Do you feel you possess Openness to Experience as a personality trait? Answer “yes” or “no” to each of the questions below to gain some insight into your level of openness.

Questions About Openness:

● Do you believe in the importance of art?

● Do you have a vivid imagination?

● Do you carry the conversation to a higher level?

● Do you enjoy hearing new ideas?

● Do you try to identify the reasons for your actions?

● Do you make decisions only after having all of the facts?

● Are you valued by others for your objectivity? (Costa & McCrae, 1992)

Did you answer mostly “yes” or “no” to the above questions? More yes answers can indicate that you have a higher degree of openness while more no answers indicate less openness.

New Experiences

Would you ever jump out of an airplane to experience skydiving? What about trying new food from an exotic country? These experiences may cause extreme anxiety for some people and extreme excitement for others. If these situations sound like something you want to participate in, then you are likely highly open to experience.

New experiences can be scary because you don’t have any idea what to expect. This uncertainty is uncomfortable and sometimes even unbearable for people who are closed off to experience. It can be safer and more comfortable to stick with experiences where you already know what the outcome will be. However, it can be difficult to grow and develop as a person if you don’t challenge yourself sometimes. If you find that trying new things is difficult for you, try starting small. Rather than jumping straight to skydiving, maybe try another adventurous outdoor activity such as hiking a new trail or taking a guided kayak tour.

Openness to Change

Change can be a scary part of life because it takes you from the familiar–where you know what to expect–into the unfamiliar, where anything can happen. However, whether we like it or not, change is an inevitable part of life. Nothing can stay exactly the same forever. The environment around us and even ourselves are constantly moving and shifting. When you are resistant to change, it can make the whole process much more difficult. Learning to receive change with open arms can make the transition easier.

Being open to change can be especially difficult if it is something that you have little control over, like a new policy at work. In this case, try to see the benefits of the proposed change. When you see how the change helps, it can make it easier to accept and integrate into your life.

In Sum

Openness is a personality trait that can be used to help describe people’s behaviors and tendencies. Some people are high in openness, meaning they are good at accepting and adapting to new things. You can display openness in a number of ways including being open to new experiences, practicing openness in communication, and being open to change. Learning to be more open can have a number of benefits. People who have a higher degree of openness have better learning results than people who are more closed off (von Stumm, 2017). Being more open can also help mitigate feelings of social anxiety (Kaplan et al., 2015). Some people are naturally more open while others can be more closed off. If you would like to display more openness, try starting with small changes like trying a new food from your favorite restaurant or taking a different route to work. You might be pleasantly surprised at the new experiences the universe has to offer you.

References

● Costa, P. T., Jr., & McCrae, R. R. (1992). Revised NEO Personality Inventory (Neo-PI-R) and NEO Five-Factor Inventory (NEO-FFI): Professional manual. Odessa, FL: Psychological Assessment Resources.

● Kaplan, S. C., Levinson, C. A., Rodebaugh, T. L., Menatti, A., & Weeks, J. W. (2015). Social anxiety and the big five personality traits: The interactive relationship of trust and Openness. Cognitive Behaviour Therapy, 44(3), 212–222.

● Li, M., Mobley, W. H., & Kelly, A. (2016). Linking personality to cultural intelligence: An interactive effect of openness and Agreeableness. Personality and Individual Differences, 89, 105–110.

● von Stumm, S. (2017). Better Open than intellectual: The benefits of investment personality traits for learning. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 44(4), 562–573