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The art of intellectual humility

You can never agree with everyone on everything. You see people disagreeing and you are so afraid of getting into an argument, that contempt has replaced conversation. You can’t grow if you are not open to persuasion and practice intellectual humility. When you feel ashamed or riled up, its easier to attack the person making […]

You can never agree with everyone on everything. You see people disagreeing and you are so afraid of getting into an argument, that contempt has replaced conversation. You can’t grow if you are not open to persuasion and practice intellectual humility.

When you feel ashamed or riled up, its easier to attack the person making the argument rather than the substance of the idea itself . You tend to bring in extreme examples where the relevance no longer matters, because now the objective has changed from changing someone’s mind to proving your point. You will fail to share innovative ideas or insightful world views unless you find a common ground. People say that they are open minded and value feedback, but when the time comes they let their frivolous emotions take over.

The importance of knowing that you might be wrong, and not caving every time your thoughts are challenged is how you become intellectually humble.

Separate the idea from the identity : Attacking someone who is sharing a contradictory view from your’s is irrelevant. Do not dismiss ideas or proposals because it came from someone who doesn’t share your beliefs or someone you don’t like. Get persuaded by a good idea, no matter where it comes from.

Find common ground no matter how narrow it is : Agree on something for e.g. world peace, or how cute puppies are. Find a shared reality and present your ideas with mutual respect. You may not agree on some contrasting ideas but the fact that you do have some common ground, no matter how small, will open your mind, to not discard the other’s opinion carelessly.

Don’t get attached to your idea : People start to believe that they own a certain idea and by extension, that owns them. When someone questions that idea, you perceive it as a question on your identity. Separating ego from intellect is important, as in not to make the ideas about you. You should not feel threatened by disagreements, or ambiguity. This attachment results into making ideas personal. Look at things from other people’s point of view, and focus less on your own identity. In a conversation present your ideas with facts and perspective to persuade others rather than going on a defense.

Be open to the possibility of being wrong : People don’t like to agree that they are wrong because they haven’t allowed for the possibility that they don’t know everything. Humility of uncertainty makes us better decision-makers. When you admit you are wrong, you can grow closer to the truth. The more you win at something, the greater the chance that you get stuck in your own ways, resulting into intellectual overconfidence. But once you start thinking about what it would take to change your mind, you will wonder why were you so sure in the first place.

“Thinking outside of the box keeps you from suffocating inside of one.”

Matshona Dhliwayo

Intellectual Humility isn’t limited to a specific area of your life, these skills make you an effective leader, productive team player, better life partner and much more. When you’re willing to consider alternative points of view and ways of doing things, you’ll be more open to a variety of different points of view and potential solutions. You become wiser when you are open to listen, persuade and adapt. Keep in mind, that it is’t that your view is wrong but others view may also be right.

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