Learning Humility However Brilliant We Are.
Humility has been defined using two main characteristics. On the intrapersonal level, humility involves an accurate view of the self. On the interpersonal level, humility involves a stance that is other-oriented rather than self-focused. One main benefit of humility is that it appears to strengthen social bonds, especially in important relationships that may experience conflict, or where differences might threaten the security of the relationship. The researchers examined humility in several different types of relational contexts (e.g., married couples, therapist and client, supervisor and supervisee, church leader and church member). Here are some initial research findings supporting this model.
First, humility is most accurately judged when it is under strain. Humility involves self-regulation which, like a muscle, can be “weakened” with short-term use, but strengthened with regular exercise. Just like courage is easier to judge in the context of danger, humility ought to be easier to judge in contexts that evoke egotism, defensiveness, and conflict. Second, humility is easier to observe accurately in others than it is in oneself. Character strengths that involve interpersonal behavior are often more accurately assessed with other-reports; however, internal behaviors (e.g., attitudes, thoughts) are often better assessed by self-report. Third, humility strengthens social bonds. This is the Social Bonds Hypothesis. Commitment promotes a sense of “we-ness” in close relationships so that individuals enjoy sacrificing for a partner. This capacity to form cooperative alliances is adaptive, but only if there is a mechanism to avoid exploitation. Viewing others as humble should facilitate greater commitment, whereas viewing others as egotistical and selfish should decrease commitment. Fourth, humility might optimize the benefits of competitive traits by buffering the wear-and-tear they can have on relationships. This is known as the Social Oil Hypothesis. Just like oil prevents an engine from overheating, humility is theorized to buffer wear-and-tear generally caused by traits that promote competition (e.g., high standards, competitiveness). This idea is consistent with the findings of Collins’s study of business leaders published in 2001. CEOs are generally selected based on performance. However, being too competitive can strain one’s relationships with co-workers. Humility may be the secret ingredient that allows people to compete at high levels without leading to breakdown in one’s relationships. Fifth, higher levels of humility may be related to better health outcomes. This is the Health Hypothesis. If humility involves self-regulation in situations that generally lead to egotism or conflict, then it ought to be related to long-term health outcomes. Namely, relationship conflict is stressful. This conflict should amplify stress to the degree that people struggle to practice humility across relationships and contexts. People low in humility may struggle to form and repair strong social bonds, leading to lower social support and weakened coping. In the fall 2012 issue of the Journal of Psychology and Theology, Neal Krause of the University of Michigan provided preliminary evidence for this hypothesis in his research on older adults. He found that older adults who were more humble also rated their health more favourably over time. Credit: Association for Psychological Science.
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