Why you need to bring ‘intellectual humility’ to your next meeting

In a time when anyone can claim to be right by using fake news and ‘alternative facts’, it takes guts to admit you were wrong. But there’s an argument that ‘intellectual humility’ is much needed in our work places and meeting rooms…

When people talk of personality traits you’d expect to find in offices and businesses, arrogance, confidence and egotism will pop up regularly.

Meeting in Front of Window

But a new study from Duke University suggests that ‘intellectual humility’ is a much needed – and currently much missing – trait that could transform your meetings.

What is ‘intellectual humility’?
Simply put, this is awareness that one’s beliefs may be wrong. In politics, it could be classed as nonpartisan; in meeting rooms, it’s being able to see all sides of the argument or discussion without bias even if they are polar opposite to yours.

It is the opposite of intellectual arrogance or conceit, and resembles open-mindedness. Intellectually humble people can have strong beliefs, but they also recognise their fallibility and are willing to be proven wrong on matters large and small.

Using it in meetings
Firstly, it’ll make your co-workers more appreciative of you if you’re willing to listen openly to their point of view. This will hopefully help neutralise any hostile atmosphere that is building in a meeting.

The study also found that people who displayed intellectual humility did a better job evaluating the quality of evidence given to them. This is important for problem solving in a business environment. Essentially, most people are willing to cut off their nose to spite their face in meetings – intellectually humble people are not.

Meeting with Tablet

“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,” lead author Mark Leary, a professor of psychology and neuroscience at Duke.

“Yet we know that good leadership requires broadness of perspective and taking as many perspectives into account as possible.

“Not being afraid of being wrong – that’s a value, and I think it is a value we could promote. I think if everyone was a bit more intellectually humble we’d all get along better, we’d be less frustrated with each other.”

Who could benefit from it?
Leary suggest that intellectual humility is a quality that could be encouraged and taught.

But who should it target? Interestingly, researchers found no difference between liberals and conservatives, or between religious and nonreligious people.

“There are stereotypes about conservatives and religiously conservative people being less intellectually humble about their beliefs,” said Leary. “We didn’t find a shred of evidence to support that.”

Instead, the training should be applied to meeting mediators, who can use it to make meeting more smooth running and help teams find the right solution to their problems.


Posted by Sara Cano


Blog Latest