Independent thinkers are refreshing. They use their own lens to filter information and inform their thoughts. Independent thinkers don’t allow other people’s thinking to become their thinking. They don’t adopt information “as is.”
It takes courage to have your own thoughts. Saying something different from the majority or the loud minority can make you vulnerable to attack. An urge to remain silent to feel safe is what makes people vulnerable to groupthink, which can discourage originality or accountability.
Leaders do not look for safety in numbers. They follow the route that allows them to remain true to themselves and that garners credibility and respect. Advocate for yourself, and demonstrate your leadership. Here are five ways you can become (or remain) an independent thinker:
Reading other people’s words exposes you to their thoughts. Expand your mind by listening to what other individuals have to say. Intentionally seek out articles or books that you might otherwise avoid. Leaders challenge their own views by listening to others.
2. Identify the other argument.
Play devil’s advocate, and challenge your views. Ask yourself, “What if the opposite was true, as well?” Leaders recognize that other people’s perspectives can be right, too.
3. Interact with people who are different than you.
Put yourself out there, and interact with people who may not hold the same views as you. Consider engaging with people of a different age, race/ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, political affiliation or socioeconomic level.
If you know of an individual that has different opinions, ask them to coffee. Make the meeting brief and informal. Don’t feel the need to hash out the issues or iron out your differences in your first conversation. First, get to know the person. You may find commonalities that you were unaware of and to which you can relate. This may help you to be more open to their views and be less attached to your original thinking.
Open your mind to different cultures and experiences, and enhance your life experience. Go to different parts of your country, as well as foreign countries. Connect with people. Stay in locally owned hotels. Take public transportation. Go to a local market. Travel like a local. Live, even if it is brief, like someone else. Open your eyes to another world.
5. Focus on respect.
If you want to be liked, you risk following what other people do or think. Strive for respect. Leaders take the road less traveled. The path may not be as smooth, but respect and leadership do not come easily.
Do your own thinking. Don’t follow others because it is the easy or safe option. Strength doesn’t come in numbers. Strength comes in one’s ability to have and express one's views.