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Acknowledge that you may be wrong

You demonstrate intellectual humility when you recognize that what you believe may be wrong. It’s a difficult exercise, as no one likes being wrong or having to admit mistakes. What’s more, our culture puts a greater value on excessive self-confidence or even arrogance.

Intellectual humility allows the possibility that you might be wrong, rather than denying this prospect or playing it down. What can you expect from this approach? A more robust cognitive process, illustrated by the fact that you’ll: 

  • Improve your ability to really listen to your opponents.  
  • Take into account information that conflicts with your beliefs. 
  • Pay more attention to the evidence. 

The need for intellectual humility is clear when we realize that 60 percent of (sometimes famous) psychology experiments (such as the Marshmallow test; see link below) could not be replicated on a larger scale with a more rigorous methodology. Attaining intellectual humility is difficult because we’re in the worst position to see our own biases and blind spots. The upside: Other people will view us as being more competent when we acknowledge a mistake. 

To go further

Intellectual humility: the importance of knowing you might be wrong

by Brian Resnick (Vox, January 2019).

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Florence Meyer
Published by Florence Meyer
Executive coach, change management expert, and author. Constantly on the lookout for the latest management and leadership trends.