I May Be Wrong, But….

When I’m wearing my work hat, I stay away from politics. I don’t talk about it and I don’t blog about it – especially these days. But it’s been on the forefront of my mind because I’ve been working with a bipartisan organization that is doing some super cool stuff. As part of that project, I’ve interviewed a number of people who are somehow tied to Capitol Hill. They represent both sides of the aisle, and almost every single person has referenced our polarized political environment.

So it was with great interest that I read Harvard Business Review’s recent article, “A New Way to Become More Open-Minded.” The author points out that we need people who can be flexible enough to think differently, admit when they’re wrong, and adapt to dynamic conditions. It can also be referred to as intellectual humility. It all makes sense – but sometimes it is easier said than done. And, it’s interesting that professors from Pepperdine University have broken the concept of intellectual humility down into four components and published an assessment to measure them:

  1. Having respect for other viewpoints
  2. Not being intellectually overconfident
  3. Separating one’s ego from one’s intellect
  4. Willingness to revise one’s own viewpoint

Most of us believe that we are more open-minded than is the case. And that results in us having a blind spot. The first step is self-awareness. But I have found the second step to be more difficult: actually listening to the other point-of-view and trying to truly understand it. Often, when we start hearing a different opinion, we immediately start building the defense in our heads. That is not helpful because then we are truly not listening.

Ben Franklin wanted to learn and grow, and he worked to deflate his own intellectual confidence. He would say, “I could be wrong, but…” and it forced him to be open to changing his own mind. Maybe we should all try that.

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