Humility

Consider this. If you voted in the Presidential election, then regardless of its outcome, there would be 70 million people who disagreed with you. These are not 70 million idiots, socialists, extremists, racists, or rioters. They are your fellow Americans who have different lived experiences, concerns and priorities than you. People who receive their information from different sources than you and are often surrounded by similar folks that reinforce their opinions, knowledge and biases.

If you are like me, many are also your family and friends – people who would step in front of a bus for you. So before you throw them under that said bus, perhaps a little humility is in order.  

While there are several definitions of humility, I’ve been gravitating to this one from friend and trust expert, Rachel Botsman. Humility = freedom from arrogance. It is appreciating the difference between “What I know” and “What I think I know.”

It is a presumption to act like we know what motivates another person to do anything – including cast a ballot for one candidate or another. It is equally unfair to question another person’s deepest held values and morals. According to the moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt, Americans share a very similar moral foundation but some groups may prioritize specific values over others.  For example, some groups may value freedom more deeply than authority, while others may value fairness over sanctity.  We are complicated human beings who subconsciously are making judgments and decisions based on factors that are baked in by our life experiences and culture.  (Here is a quick overview of moral foundations to learn more)

While this primer may be helpful, it is no substitute for actually talking to people with views different from your own – and to do so with a deep sense of humility.

Over the last month I have had dozens of such conversations – and have tried to practice what I preach here – albeit not always being successful in checking my own arrogance. They have been difficult, awkward and distressing.  But they have also been productive, respectful and revealing. 

Studies have shown that with humility comes many benefits. People who are humble more effectively manage stress, are more grateful, helpful and generous. Humility also allows us to be less likely to act aggressively, express dishonesty or manipulate others. Finally humility allows us to accept our own mistakes and limitations, take responsibility for our actions and listen to others.  

I humbly ask — Couldn’t  we all use a little more of that right now?

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