Ways To Be More Intellectually Humble
1. Ask yourself questions:
When you find yourself disagreeing with someone, ask yourself these questions: Why do I disagree? Do I have all the information about this? Am I making any assumptions? How did I come to hold this view and where did I get this information? And then flip it around and ask yourself those same questions about the other person's views: Where did their beliefs come from? What information might they have that I don't?
2. Try getting distance from yourself:
A 2021 study found that "self-distancing"—looking at oneself like an outside observer—could significantly increase intellectual humility. In this study, participants were asked to keep a diary over the course of a month and write about each day's most significant event. One group wrote in the first person (e.g., "This happened to me"), and the other group wrote in the third person (e.g., "This happened to Bob"). The people who wrote in the third person—or who "self-distanced" from the incident—became much more intellectually humble when reflecting on interpersonal challenges.
3. Try to be patient:
"The brain evolved the capacity to think in order to guide our behavior in adaptive ways," says psychologist Mark Leary. "If we assume that our understanding of almost anything . . . improves over time, then there's no reason to draw a firm conclusion until we need to act on it. Then, we go with the best information—from the most credible sources—that we have." That means simply being patient as you gather information and keeping an open mind until you need to act.
4. Seek out awe:
Sometimes it can feel like we're at the center of our own universe. Experiencing awe can jolt us out of this self-focused mindset, stirring feelings of wonder and inspiration by reminding us that we're all just one piece of a greater puzzle. Research suggests that experiencing awe not only enhances happiness and physical health but also helps us to feel more humble. It is most likely to occur in places that have two key features: physical vastness and novelty. These could include natural settings, like a hiking trail lined with tall trees, or urban settings, like at the top of a skyscraper. No matter where you are, the key is to be in the right frame of mind. The Awe Walk practice is designed to help you get there—to turn an ordinary walk into a series of awe-inspiring moments, filled with delightful surprises.
5. Embrace mistakes and practice admitting that you made them:
In the 2017 paper "Learning from Errors," psychologist Janet Metcalfe argues that students may benefit from making mistakes (and correcting them) rather than avoiding them at all costs. When you discover that you were wrong about something, suggests psychologist Rick Hanson, "Start by reminding yourself how it is in your own best interests to admit fault and move on. We might think that admitting fault is weak or that it lets the other person off the hook for [their] faults. But actually, it takes a strong person to admit fault, and it puts us in a stronger position with others." Research suggests that people will see the strength it took to admit you made a mistake—and they'll like you for it.