Signs that You’re Not Acting with Intellectual Humility


In the newsletter this week, I shared my revelation about intellectual humility (and how I haven’t always had it). Intellectual humility is not a one-time accomplishment; it takes continual practice to maintain and requires a high level of self-awareness. 

It’s something that’s hard to put your finger on, so it’s helpful to look out for the symptoms that tell you you’re not being intellectually humble. These are the signs you have some work to do:

You engage in false humility. 

When someone pays you a compliment about something you did well, how do you receive it? Do you receive it gracefully, or do you reject the nice things being said to you? If you are committing verbal judo on yourself when someone tells you that you did something right or you go into a long dissertation about what is wrong with you that is not intellectual humility. It may feel humble to reject or criticize yourself, but if the criticism is inaccurate, you’re not being self-aware. Accept the compliment when it is due, and if you do believe there is room for improvement, move in that direction without making a scene.

You aren’t having real conversations with yourself. Are you aware and awake to, “Am I over the edge? Am I coming from a place of intellectual humility? Am I doing too much?” It’s the conversation you have with yourself in your head where you call yourself onto the carpet and say, “Ok, what’s really going on here?” Nobody knows you like you. It’s you being aware of you. Others who live outside of you may point it out, and if you’re self-aware, you can say, “This is what I need to pay attention to.” Know when to spring into action and know when to invest in yourself. 

Here are some clues that you need to have a real conversation with yourself. If you notice you start to do these things…

Think you’re the smartest person in the room.

Push one down to prop yourself up.

By any means necessary make your numbers.

Never give others a chance to make their point.

Use big words to impress others.

Say things that sound important but are really full of hot air.

Showcase your academic agility.

Tell us how smart you are so that we can look at you with awe. 

If you catch yourself doing these things, odds are you will benefit from cultivating intellectual humility. Check out this video for practical tips to get started.

Simon T. BaileyComment