In our era of consumerism everything seems to be a matter of sale, including employment. Job hunters are often expected to “sell, sell and sell themselves” with self-confidence considered as one of the key selling points.
As Broadside points out on her blog, you’ve got to have “the brass-knuckled self-confidence” or “fake successfully and project consistently… to meet the right people, say the right things, answer with the requisite ballsiness… Anyone modest or self-deprecating is quickly and easily trampled by the brazen, who will become your boss.” You are expected to be “chest-beating and telling everyone how amaaaaaaaaaazing you are.”
I thought about that while scanning environment for interesting opportunities. Would I feel comfortable tooting — or blaring — my own horn?
Well, if I was desperate for a job to feed my children and that was the only way of getting a job, then yes, I would. I would act, I would toot, I would blare all the horns. Luckily, I’m not that desperate. I do have a choice and I choose intellectual humility.
What is ‘intellectual humility’ you may ask? The following definition provided by the Thrive Center for Human Development appeals to me the most: “Intellectual humility has to do with understanding that you don’t know everything, that there is more to learn, that you don’t use your knowledge or expertise as a way to get advantage over others and that, in discussions with others, you are respectful, listening closely to what the other has to say in order to learn something.”
From ancient times intellectual humility has been seen as foundational to knowledge itself. Intellectual humility depends on recognizing that one should not claim more than one actually knows and acknowledges the vast areas of unknown. “To know, is to know that you know nothing”, in the words of Socrates (470-399BC)
Voltaire (1694 – 1778) – the most widely-read of the Enlightenment spokesmen – followed that tradition of intellectual humility: “The more we think, the more we realize that we know nothing.”
Einstein followed this ancient tradition with his famous formula of knowledge: “More the Knowledge Lesser the Ego, Lesser the Knowledge More the Ego”.
Psychology provides an interesting insight into intellectual humility and its opposite – intellectual arrogance. According to psychological research, human beings are notoriously disposed to over-estimate their intellectual strengths and under-estimate their weaknesses; indeed, the evidence is clear that there is a strong tendency even to under-estimate our liability to such biases!
Some clinicians have argued that intellectual arrogance is necessary for maintaining mental health as the intellectually humble, who see themselves and their condition with unmitigated clarity, are more susceptible to forms of depression, for example. Does that psychological ‘wiring’ however means that intellectual humility has no place in the workforce?
Intellectual humility is not only associated with deeper understanding and knowledge. According to the Thrive Center for Human Development, evidence indicates correlations between intellectual humility and important morally salient traits such as a willingness to forgive others, a lack of aggression, and helpfulness. Moreover, psychologists have discovered traits and behaviors associated with intellectual humility that facilitate learning, personal growth, and social interaction.
Do you feel comfortable tooting your own horn?
Would you hire a tooting horn?