How to Be the Best at Humility

At a time when we feel pressured to “sell” and “brand” ourselves to get ahead, it can be difficult to know where and how humility fits into the big picture. When everything from work to dating to travel feels like competition to us, we can spend a lot of time and energy building on our strengths to stand out from the crowd. Then there is the current political climate where many people are completely convinced that they are right about something and are not going to learn more or even interact with those on the other side.

As Daryl R. Van Tongeren, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology at Hope College, writes for Psychology Today, humility is a trait that is increasingly ignored and devalued, even as we need it more than ever. … Here are his tips for developing humility.

What is humility?

While humility can be perceived as passive and / or timid, Van Tongern says it is not. “Humility is about seeing yourself as the right size – not too big (excessive ego), but not too small (timidly cowardly),” he writes. This requires self-awareness, open-mindedness, and empathy. If you need to work on these things, he has a few suggestions.

Ask for feedback

If you want to cultivate humility, Van Tongern offers three strategies. The first is asking for feedback. He writes :

Start by seeking honest feedback from a trusted source in your life ( eg , family member, romantic partner, trusted friend, reputable colleague). Ask them how humble they are, what your blind spots are, and how you could be more aware, open, or empathetic. To develop humility, you need to know where you can grow.

Resist the temptation to defend yourself

No one likes to be wrong, but it is also not necessary to constantly defend yourself after criticism or an argument with someone. And remember, if you follow the suggestion above and ask someone for their opinion, agree that it might not be light praise. Per Van Tongern :

You may not like the feedback you hear that prompts you to defend yourself by denying any wrongdoing, shifting anger towards the source of the feedback, or projecting other people’s arrogance. This is counterproductive. Take a moment to assert yourself and use this process as a chance to learn and grow, realizing that cultivating humility takes time and effort. Developing humility requires this openness to learning.

Be empathetic

Unsurprisingly, empathy is the primary and essential ingredient in humility. This requires two things: the ability to receive feedback and accept the other person’s point of view on something, and genuine concern for the person’s well-being. And again Van Tongern :

Empathy helps us develop humility. Before answering, ask yourself two questions: (1) Why might other points of view be correct? (2) How would I react if I treated the other person as if they were trying their best? Empathy can help break our self-centered patterns and connect us to others.

Like so much else, humility takes practice and patience. But being open to new or different perspectives gives you the opportunity to learn, including understanding what motivates other people.


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