Failing To Develop This Gentle Quality Could Be A Huge Loss To You
Mental health professionals urge you to unlock the gifts that the trait of humility has to offer.
By Mark Travers, Ph.D. | August 23, 2022
When we hear the words 'character strength', we instantly think of qualities like bravery, leadership, resilience, and unflappability.
It might surprise you to know that humility is increasingly looked upon by psychologists as an essential trait for anyone wanting to live a life of physiological and psychological balance and well-being.
Here are three reasons why humility may be the most underrated superpower.
#1. It is a building block of temperance
Clinical Psychologist and Professor of Psychology at Virginia Commonwealth University, Everett Worthington, describes temperance as "moderation in action, thoughts, or feelings." According to Worthington, humility, combined with forgiveness and patience, can help build this moderation.
"In the current polarized social climate, such moderation is often lacking. Its lack can lead us to react strongly to differences in political positions, race, religion, and even opinion," he explains.
Worthington claims that humility "could help people moderate reactions so they can avoid socially destructive acts."
A key factor in developing more temperance in society and our relationships, says Worthington, is the ability to listen empathically and civilly, which can only be done through cultivating and practicing humility.
He states that humility has four parts:
- Being aware and acting on an accurate self-assessment of both our strengths and weaknesses
- Being teachable to correct our weaknesses
- Presenting ourselves modestly instead of arrogantly
- Being other-oriented to elevate others instead of putting them down
"Humility research has shown that when people are humble it acts as a social oil, oiling the operation of relationships," he says. "Also, humility is a buffer against relationship harms. It has mental health benefits for both the one who is humble but also for those in relationships with that person."
#2. It helps you attract the right people
A study published in the Journal of Research in Personality explains that partners who see each other as honest and humble are more likely to be compatible, report more relationship satisfaction, and have longer-lasting relationships.
According to psychologist Jie Liu, the honesty-humilty spectrum covers traits like honesty, trustworthiness, kindness, fairness, and modesty, which reflect peoples' core values.
"Values are an important part of people's social relationships: people tend to assume that their values are shared by those with whom they have close relationships and tend to develop relationships with those whose values are similar to their own," Liu clarifies.
In other words, it is possible that along with making you a better person, humility can help you build deep connections with people who value the same things as you do.
#3. It facilitates deep and meaningful conversations
Humility has also been linked to better listening, which we all know to be one of the core components of a good conversation. In one study published in the Journal of Positive Psychology, psychologist Michal Lehmann cites humility — the understanding that one is not the center of this world and that there are things greater than the self — as the defining quality of a good listener.
"We found that listening increases the state of humility of both parties in the conversation: the listener and the speaker, but especially the listener," says Lehmann.
This means that not only does humility make for better and more nuanced conversations through better listening, it also increases the overall level of humility in it. This creates a positive feedback loop which results in even better conversations over time.
Humility-driven listening can also help people in the following ways, according to Lehmann:
- It can improve the quality of your relationships. Good listening can deepen your closest relationships as well as lay strong foundations for new ones.
- It can improve performance at work. Salespeople who listen well sell more; physicians who listen well are less likely to be sued for malpractice; managers who listen well are more likely to have subordinates who want to follow them.
Strength and integrity can come in different shapes and forms. It is prudent to embrace softer and subtler qualities like humility along with bravery and courage to enjoy the full spectrum of experiences life has to offer.