Mindfulness for Fostering Openness and Honesty
Openness and honesty have always been important attributes. But in our current climate— where social media serve as an echo chamber silencing opposing views and sharing one’s opinion can be increasingly polarizing—being open to new thoughts, ideas, and experiences while also being honest may be more important than ever. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the need for openness and honesty in new ways, as schools and communities grapple with equity in the face of a global health crisis (Mineo, 2020). We have an opportunity to speak openly with our students about the virtues and struggles of online learning, particularly as it pertains to equity in education. Without fomenting judgment, how can we help our students reflect honestly about their position within our education system? When is it acceptable to highlight the ways virtual classrooms serve some students better than others? When students open themselves up to seeing the experiences and struggles of others during the pandemic as being as valid as their own, we can carve deep, nuanced pathways to understanding.
Nurturing honesty and integrity requires students to practice “systemic thinking,” which is when we think through consequences and understand one’s role in a situation or relationship honestly (Waddock, 2001), and thus enables students to take a top-down view of their circumstances and analyze situations holistically. Systemic thinking helps students foster their ability to keep an open mind because they are thinking broadly; it promotes their ability to be honest because they understand the stakes of telling the truth and clearly see how by doing so they impact their surroundings (Gilissen et al., 2020). Systemic thinking decenters the individual and encourages a collective consciousness, a place where our different opinions can fit together in pursuit of a just and harmonious society.
Mindfulness, Systemic Thinking, and Openness and Honesty
Mindfulness can serve as a “straightforward technique for observing all thoughts” and help us to develop “clarity and kindness in relationship to our mind-habits” (Lee, 2010). Building a relationship with our thought patterns allows us to begin to notice our habits, tendencies, and triggers, and will give us a systemic view of our own minds. With a broad perspective of our minds and ourselves, we can overcome the constraints that prevent us from being open tonew experiences by being able to notice when we may be closing ourselves off. Saying an intentional “yes” instead of a habitual “no” can keep us engaged, open, and honest with integrity and consistency.
Following guidelines established within Center for Responsive Schools’ Fly Five curriculum, students can practice key skills for showing openness and honesty. For example:
- Recognizing the importance of telling the truth when explaining their actions
- Admitting mistakes and missteps
- Exploring how opinions are formed
- Learning to diplomatically explain ideas and opinions on controversial topics
Mindfulness is crucial to fostering these skills because it can help students work through the discomfort that may accompany showing openness and honesty. Practicing mindfulness reminds students to observe their habits and tendencies without judgment. When students practice suspending judgment of themselves and of others, they will be primed to observe their thoughts as neutral, allowing them to maintain greater emotional regulation during stressful events such as admitting a mistake or expressing their opinion (Barner & Barner, 2011). Teaching our students how to remain open to different opinions and experiences is of paramount importance for creating a generation of tolerant, honest citizens who operate from within a space of integrity.
Try the following downloadable activities to help foster openness and honesty through the practice of mindfulness.
- Barner, C. P., & Barner, R. W. (2011). Mindfulness, openness to experience, and transformational learning. In C. Hoare (Ed.), The Oxford Handbook of Reciprocal Adult Development and Learning (2nd ed., pp. 347–361). Oxford University Press.
- Lee, C. (2010, August 25). Can I be honest with you? Mindful. https://www.mindful.org/can-i-be-honest-with-you/
- Gilissen, M. G. R., Knippels, M.-C. P. J., & van Joolingen, W. R. (2020) Bringing systems thinking into the classroom. International Journal of Science Education, 42(8), 1253–1280. https://doi.org/10.1080/09500693.2020.1755741
- Mineo, L. (2020, April 10). Time to fix American education with race-for-space resolve. The Harvard Gazette. https://news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2020/04/the-pandemics-impact-on-education/
- Waddock, S. (2001). Integrity and mindfulness: Foundations of corporate citizenship. The Journal of Corporate Citizenship, (1), 25–37. https://www.jstor.org/stable/jcorpciti.1.25?seq=1