That’s why we need more people who exhibit “intellectual humility.”
The personality trait, which is classified as an awareness that one’s beliefs may not be right (imagine!), is only just beginning to be studied by researchers. It falls among categorized traits like hostility and egotism, according to those who study the phenomenon. And a new analysis published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin last week aims to take a deeper dive into the character type and how people with it function.
Mark Leary, lead researcher of the character type, says the trait is important to study because it affects many aspects of how people interact with each other.
“The degree to which people believe that their beliefs, attitudes and viewpoints are correct have implications for the quality of people’s decisions, their views of other people ... conflict in social interactions and the ability to compromise,” Leary told The Huffington Post. And those with intellectual humility recognize that impact, he explained.
Below are some signs you posses the personality trait, according to Leary and the findings from his study:
1. You’re open to other people’s viewpoints.
People with “IH,” as Leary calls it, can recognize that there are two sides to every argument. And they don’t just keep this idea to themselves, they validate the other person’s argument if they feel they’re making a strong case.
“People with high IH acknowledge when others make good points,” Leary said.
2. You recognize when you’re wrong.
“Those who are low in IH rarely acknowledge that they’re mistaken about some fact,” Leary said.
Those with high levels of the trait will be forthright about when they’re incorrect and speak up about it. In other words, no “alternative facts” here.
3. You challenge your own beliefs against facts.
You may have an opinion on a subject, but if you find facts that refute it, you’re likely the first to admit it. You’re also more likely to adjust your worldview accordingly.
“High IH leads people to reconsider their beliefs and attitudes, which should lead them to adjust or change viewpoints that don’t stand up under close scrutiny,” Leary said.
4. You’re a leader at work.
Good leaders are those who are able to recognize when they made a mistake ― something that takes a good amount of intellectual humility.
“If you’re sitting around a table at a meeting and the boss is very low in intellectual humility, he or she isn’t going to listen to other people’s suggestions,” Leary said in a statement following the study’s release. “Yet we know that good leadership requires broadness of perspective and taking as many perspectives into account as possible.”
5. You’re able to compromise.
People who have low IH may not be able to reach a middle ground, Leary says.
“People who are entrenched in any belief and cannot fathom the possibility that they might be wrong have problems considering the merits of other positions and looking for areas of compromise,” he explained to HuffPost.
Those with intellectual humility can meet in the middle and come to a compromise that works for both parties. This obviously sounds ideal when you apply it to, say, congress, Leary says, but it’s also good for interpersonal interactions, too. Research shows conflict resolution and compromise may help with long-term bonds.
6. You have relationships with people of all different beliefs.
Because your mind is so flexible, you’re able to connect with a wide range of people with different world views. A quality, Leary says, is important to overall cohesiveness in society.
“High IH people get along better with other people and have more satisfying relationships ― probably because they manage disagreements better, and other people don’t like know-it-alls,” he said.
7. Your ego is in check.
Leary says that people with more intellectual humility are less likely to engage in “ego-involved disagreements.” Translation? They check their sense of self-importance at the door and recognize that everyone’s perspective is as valuable as theirs.
8. You’re open minded.
Do you approach situations ― from debates on current events to new adventures ― with a high degree of open-mindedness? That’s the trait in a nutshell, Leary said.
Of course, experts suggest that human beings cannot possibly be classified by a single personality type and some of the most popular tests to determine them are hardly scientific. There’s also more research that needs to be conducted on the subject in order to gain a fuller understanding, Leary points out. But it’s still interesting to explore the established characteristics of intellectual humility as a way to gain insight into how you may approach the world.
And, if we’re being honest, it doesn’t sound like a bad trait to have ― especially in this political atmosphere.