Are you willing to be wrong?
Are you someone who is willing to listen?
Are you open to new ideas that are different than yours?
Are you always right in your mind?
Are you more willing to get your point across than to listen?
Are you fixed on your ideas and thoughts and unwilling to be wrong?
If the former, then you may have intellectual humility.
If the latter, then pride/ego/I’m-always-right ego is the beginning of the fall.
I could be wrong but I suspect that we have a movement in our country (and in our local communities) of people that have become “experts”. They’re convinced they know more than others whose vocation may include running a business, a university classroom, or scientific research lab. This has caused us not to trust leaders, our neighbors, or the scientific community. We trust our research, smart phones, and memes. Not you (the reader). Others (wink wink). I’m somewhat concerned about this posture because a very famous pithy proverb says, “pride comes before a fall”. Eugene Peterson translated the text this way:
“First pride, then the crash—
the bigger the ego, the harder the fall.”– A Proverb
I suspect we may not be at the top of our intellectual humility game right now. I hope I’m wrong but….
Pepperdine University did a research project on intellectual humility. Below are four traits they found with people who are lifelong learners and humble:
- Having respect for other viewpoints
- Not being intellectually overconfident
- Separating one’s ego (self-esteem/confidence) from one’s intellect
- Willingness to revise one’s own viewpoint
A Harvard Business Review article said that Ben Franklin, a highly intellectual phenom, would start many of his discourses by saying, “I could be wrong, but…” The article said this put his audience at ease and helped be more open to new ideas. It also created a lifelong learning attitude in Ben (that’s how I refer to him). This was intellectual humility on his part.
I was meeting with a manager the other day (I was given permission to share this) and he said that having curiosity with his team members helps him ask more questions and listen more intently. I think curiosity with others is the ultimate form of care. It conveys that we respect others’ viewpoints and willingness to put ourselves in the place of the other. This translates into deep care and being FOR the other person.
He said that being curious and asking questions creates a culture of people thriving. I agree (or change my mind).
He made me think of Brian Grazer’s “A Curious Mind: The Secret to a Bigger Life”. Grazer is best known for producing movies like Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, and 8 Mile. His films have grossed over $13 billion. In the book, he says that,
“Curiosity is itself a form of power, and also a form of courage…the questions…have to come from genuine curiosity. If you’re not curious enough to listen to the answer, all the question does is increase cynicism and decrease trust and engagement.”A Curious Mind
I’ll be honest. I learned something new about curiosity today. It’s listening to the responses and answers that we’re chasing in curiosity. We want to see what others think and believe about the subject matter.
This posture is much different than the “I’m an expert because I researched something and now I know it all” syndrome. To have intellectual humility is to borrow from Ben Franklin (“I could be wrong”) and from Grazer (curiosity as power and courage).
Maybe we have some learning to do. Maybe you and I can practice more civility with one another by adopting intellectual humility and curiosity. That’s my hope.