Why be intellectually humble?
Self Help

Why be intellectually humble?

Socrates was pronounced the wisest man in Athens. Padoxically, what made him wise was that he knew that he did not know anything. This unique virtue of intellectual humility, his ability to recognize the limits of his own knowledge and use this as the starting point for genuine enquiry is what made him a great philosopher. However, we live in an age of “Know it all”, “nit-pickers” and “intellectually arrogant” people who hoard information in order to demonstrate their self-ascribed superiority.

People overestimate themselves to an extent where they start believing that they are better than everyone else or most of them. This intellectually arrogant behaviour has lead most of us into dominating conversations, offering unsolicited advice, challenging authoritative figures and engaging in pointless debates, hence turning discussion into arguments.

Take a moment and ask yourself: Does priding at your strengths help you grow as a person? It’s not “The recognition that the things you believe in might in fact be wrong” is Intellectual humility according to Mark Leary, a social and personality psychologist at Duke University.

Intellectual humility advocates learning through critical self reflection. This does not mean that the person lacks conviction or is gullible. It is not a translation of having low self-esteem or low confidence, but a mere state of being open minded where one is willing to be receptive to new means of evidence which would help them in seeing the same thing from different perspectives.

An Intellectually humble person may hold on to his/her strong belief but will readily recognize their fallibility at the presentation of different rational and factual information. They learn from people they disagree. They more readily seek out information that contradict their worldview and pay more attention to evidence. It was seen that they had a stronger self-awareness when they answer a question incorrectly. In comparison to people who hold on to rigid thinking might take an arrogant stance presuming they “ already know everything” and therefore hold themselves back from learning something new.

Introverts or people who are lonely are said to be high on intellectual humility. According to a study “Social Psychological Skill and Its Correlates,” Lonely People Have the best read on human nature as melancholic introverts are more perceptive than others in understanding how we act in social groups and they don’t view the world through rose-coloured glasses as jovial, and extroverted people do. The researcher Gollwitzer further adds that melancholic, introverted people spend more time observing human nature than those who are busy interacting with others, or they are more accurate at introspection because they have fewer motivational biases. Experts suggest more research should be conducted on the subject in order to gain a fuller understanding.

We all are prone to intellectual blind spots. The major reason being parents who instill in the minds of their kids that they are better and unique which makes them feel superior to others. They at times feel they are entitled to special treatment and whatever they think and feel is extra ordinary. To break this vicious cycle of overestimation and to reach self-scrutiny for cultivating wisdom and be intellectually humble, you can ask yourself:

  1. Can I construct a list of your most significant prejudices?
  2. Can I name a way in which a prior view I had has changed? Improved?
  3. Do I ever argue for or against views when I have little evidence upon which to base my judgment?
  4. Do I ever assume that my (family, religion, nation, etc.) is correct and or superior even though I have not looked at the matter from the point of view of others with whom you disagree?

Practice intellectual humility to make your interactions more interesting, civil, meaningful and productive for all those involved.

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