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How to Tolerate Ignorant People

An institution of higher learning is meant to open up minds, not only to learn new skills and concepts, but also to learn about the bigger world beyond one’s hometown or high school. While most students learn to embrace diversity and become better equipped to function as full members of this ever-growing and ever-changing society, others seem to forego this concept altogether and instead cling to their sheltered concepts. After all, ignorance is bliss. Although I shun bright-eyed, ignorant freshmen, I was one of them. I too, thought that I knew more about the world than I did. I thought I had a good foundation for life. Of course, I soon learned that I was absolutely wrong.

Some bubbles of this ignorant bliss are never bursted. I have gone to college with individuals who happen to hold on to racist ideas. I have also met people who think that the world is not served to them on a silver platter because of their background. I also have gone to school with people whose personal beliefs were completely against their curriculum of study. From insidious individuals, to exclusive cliques, there is an obvious pattern of ignorance, which is a great contrast to the mission of higher education. Although this will sound corny, I believe that minds, just like parachutes, do indeed work best when open.

The first step to tolerate people who refuse to grow and open their minds is to accept that they are allowed to have those beliefs. It is not one’s job to education everyone around him or her. That is education that students came to the university for, and it is their choice to follow through with their goals. Quite frankly, I noticed that people only learn things that they want to. If it does not seem to matter to them, understanding new ideas becomes obsolete for some. After accepting that people will have their own opinion no matter what their circumstance may be, life becomes easier.

Accepting the ignorance of strangers who seem to be in the same university as you for the same reason is not as hard as dealing with friends who become ignorant to academic, social, or moral ideas. Unfortunately, it is just as impossible to serve as the educator to ignorant people, even if they are familiar. Furthermore, sometimes it is necessary to part ways, make adjustments, and learn to streamline any negative energy from those people.

A personal experience I had was dealing with two people who were from the same small town. They were nice, funny, and overall great friends. One thing that happened to irk me was that they considered their life, as they have carried it on, as absolutely normal. I thought it was ridiculous that in one of the most diverse countries in the world, and with so much exposure to people from different social and economic backgrounds, it was possible to begin to think that one’s way of life was the gold standard of normalcy. Some people have a lot to learn. I found this out by being told that I was more diverse than my best friend. I was clearly essentially confused, and then offended. Someone took their time to judge my best friend and me against their own lives and calculate just how far away each of us was from an image of normalcy. I am still friends with them. I understand that no one is perfect. I am most certainly not perfect. It is not my place to try to start to change the way that they perceive the world. Likewise, it is also no one else’s job or function in my life to change my outlook unless my mind is open to it. It is a simple moral courtesy that allows many, many normal people to function together.



navyatha's picture

True, people have their own

True, people have their own beliefs and opinions. I unfortunately was a part of discussions that were really ignorant. I simply try to remain calm, accept and respect what other people believe. I simply hate unnecessary arguments that aggravate the situation.I know what you mean. I thought I had everything figured out. Then I went to college and found out that I was still beginning to understand life. I now know that I still have a long way to go.

I don't like it when people go out of their way to convince me to change my beliefs, and I know that the same holds true for others. People have to be ready to grow and understand. Beliefs don't change by force.


Adelaide's picture

It's funny

Even though several minds open up during the college years, there were still some friends of mine who never changed. 

My college was located on the Bible Belt, which means that several of them were deeply Christian.  The problem that these individuals faced when they arrived in college was the fact that there were several more people of different faith than theirs. 

During my Freshmen years, I stayed with a cliche who believed that any other religion was wrong.  They talked openly about other people's beliefs and would cite from the Bible how those beliefs were wrong.  While I could tolerate that for a while, eventually that kind of talk got to me, and I drifted off to other groups and other friends. 

jvstanley's picture

Open Minds, Closed Mouths

In my opinion, I believe everyone should practice more opening of the mind and closing of the mouth.  I, myself have had my fair share of run-ins with people who hold true to their values even though those values are so skewed and warped by their own misconceptions.  Honestly, what IS normalcy?  It honestly depends on what group you tend to run with, and as we try to reinforce tolerance and by doing so trying to get the ignorant less-tolerant people to tolerate more, we also have to learn to tolerate the intolerable.  By doing so, keeping our own ignorant preconceived notions to ourselves as a way to set an example, though we cannot change the minds of the masses, we can in fact change the way the masses affect us, and we can change our own behavior.  

Tomochka's picture

I am a victim of stereotypes

After reading your post, I just cannot not reply! When people find out about my heritage (which is Russian, by the way) I hear all kinds of strange ideas about myself.

Here, in the South people seem to be more stereotypical and ignorant when it comes to my country of birth, for some reason (I did not hear that many remarks about my “easy-to-get” nature in New Jersey, for example).  Many people think that there is still communism ruling; others are sure that I speak German (?), my mother-in-law was sure that I married my husband for a citizenship (well, that might be just an in-law thing, but still).  Sometimes I hear that I am a mail-order bride (I used to be an exchange student), or that I am a spy for KGB (which is also now a non-existent structure).

At parties, everyone expects me to get drunk out of my mind and have vodka as a drink of choice (I do not drink anything more than 2 glasses of red wine per every 5-6 months).  So… what do I do about that? Lol. Thankfully, college environment seems to be more open to international diversity than the small town in a middle of a country.  All I can say about that  - Thank God!

Julie, I agree, closing mouth and opening mind seems to be the best idea of all plus EDUCATION!

moustafaa's picture

Dealing with different kind

Dealing with different kind person is not an easy task anywhere we are. We need to learn some skill in dealing with each type or category of person around us.

In case of ignorant people, I have few steps or perception that I have made on them. First, I knew this kind of people are stubborn, not much cooperative, less motivation and they only believe with what they know though their knowledge is low or proven wrong.

Hence, I have my own approach when dealing with them. First of all, if I got a choice, I will try to avoid them. But, if I got no choice, then I will deal them as soft as I could. When, it’s about a team work, in the discussion, give task to this kind of person with the task that are easy and less important. Never hope much on them and always make a plan B by doing the task given to them ourselves as a backup in case they don’t do it or if they do it, it has no quality.

Try to support them with explanation with concrete proof and hopefully they will accept it. If they don’t accept it, then just don’t take it serious or personal. Use group vote when it is about making decision on crucial issue.

Try to be good and helpful to them as possible as we can so that they will treat us as their good friend.