Becoming More Humble

August 19, 2020

Three easy steps to cultivate humility in your own life.

We need humility now more than ever. Recent trends in America suggest that by several different metrics, narcissism has been steadily on the rise. This boom in self-aggrandizing and entitlement has poisoned relationships and wreaked havoc in workplaces, sewn increasing division in politics, and fueled the culture war.

We’ve also forgotten how to productively and politely disagree. It has become increasingly difficult to have civil conversations with people who have different points of view, with many simply surrounding themselves with belief-confirming news (and social circles) that insulate them from new ideas, simply reinforcing their preferred ways of seeing the world.

We’ve ensconced ourselves in echo-chambers, favoring closed-mindedness and validation instead of open-mindedness, curiosity, and free inquiry. We’ve seen the toll of arrogance in families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and society.

Humility stands in stark contrast with the current state of things, offering us a way to engage ourselves and others with honesty, curiosity, and open-mindedness. The ability to present our ideas and views modestly, share praise and blame, and consider the needs of others, has been shown to increase happiness, strengthen relationships, and achieve professional success.

Humility has long been extolled as an ancient virtue and, yet, all too often, the trait is overlooked and devalued. However, recent scientific research has begun to reveal what our ancestors already knew—that humility has the transformative power to change people’s lives, relationships, work, and society itself.

Humility is about seeing oneself as the right size—not too big (overinflated ego), but also not too small (timidly pusillanimous). It involves (a) awareness: an accurate self-awareness of one’s strengths and weakness, (b) openness: the ability to openly accept feedback and criticism while presenting your own views respectfully, and (c) empathy: an empathic concern for the well-being of other people. 

So, how can you develop humility? Start with these three steps:

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