HUMILITY … A DESIRED TRAIT IN THE GAME
Characteristics of and best practices to embrace humility
By F. Scott Addis, CPCU, CRA, ACRA, TRA, ASA
What is humility? Why is it such an important attribute to success in life? Why are the most effective leaders humble? Is it possible to shift an individual’s persona from exaggerated self-esteem to genuine humility?
Before we attempt to answer these questions, let’s begin by discovering how personalities are formed. A personality is a combination of characteristics or qualities that create an individual’s distinctive character. It represents the pattern of thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and behaviors that make a person unique. An individual’s personality emerges over time.
In the article “The Psychology of Personality Formation,” Kendra Cherry, founder and lead editor of Explore Psychology, states that “many factors influence the development of a personality, including genetics and environment, how we were parented, and social variables.” She also conveys that “temperament is a part of personality that is determined by inherited traits. Character is an aspect of personality influenced by experience and continues to grow and change throughout life.”
Over the years, there has been no shortage of theories about how personalities are formed. Perhaps the most popular theory goes by the acronym for five traits, OCEAN: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extraversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. A trait is a personality characteristic that meets three criteria. It must be consistent, stable, and vary from person to person.
“The trait theory suggests that people have certain basic traits, and it is the strength and integrity of those traits that account for personality differences,” states Cherry.
The Five-Factor Model supported the research of Robert McCrea and Paul Costa of the National Institutes of Health, as outlined below:
- Openness—The tendency to appreciate new ideas, values, feelings, and behaviors.
- Conscientiousness—The tendency to be careful, on time for appointments, to follow rules, and to be hardworking.
- Extraversion—The tendency to be talkative, sociable, and to enjoy others; the tendency to have a dominant style.
- Agreeableness—The tendency to agree and go along with others rather than to assert one’s own opinions and choices.
- Neuroticism—The tendency to frequently experience negative emotions such as anger, worry, and sadness, as well as being interpersonally sensitive.
A revision to the “Big Five” is the HEXACO Model of traits. While it is similar to The Five-Factor Model, it adds Honesty-Humility as a sixth dimension of personality. “People high in this trait are sincere, fair, and modest, whereas those low in the trait are manipulative, narcissistic, and self-centered,” says Edward Diener, an American psychologist, professor, and author.
Characteristics of humility
Robert Hogan, Ph.D., founder and president of Hogan Assessments, defines humility as 1) self-awareness, 2) appreciating others’ strengths and contribution, and 3) openness to new ideas and feedback. Humble people have accurate opinions of themselves, put accomplishments into perspective, and believe that they are not better than others. Humility is characterized by gratitude and the freedom from arrogance and entitlement. A humble person acknowledges mistakes and is aware of limitations. Although this individual may be quite accomplished, his or her humility opens the door to other viewpoints and ideas. Dr. Hogan says, “Leaders who are humble have a better grasp on organizational needs and make better informed decisions. They tend to avoid the spotlight and give credit to their colleagues … charismatic leaders tend to focus on personal advancement, while humble leaders tend to focus on team performance and guiding their employees.” (You may wish to explore Dr. Hogan’s YouTube video on humility in leaders for additional insights and value.)
Humility and genuine respect for others go hand in hand. Below are a few characteristics of someone who is humble:
- Aware of weaknesses and has a desire to learn and improve
- At peace with themselves and others
- Admits when wrong
- Is slow to offend and quick to forgive
- Takes criticism in stride
- Asks for help
- Appreciates and values the strengths of others
- Is patient and does not get easily frustrated with the imperfections of others
- Sets goals far beyond his or her self-interest
- Inspires teamwork
When you meet someone who exudes the characteristics of humility, do you put your guard down and look forward to building a relationship? Do you find his or her active listening skills appeal-ing? Do you feel safe and secure in sharing your innermost feelings? If you answered in the affirmative, it is because a humble person is authentic, modest, empathetic, truthful, and unpretentious, and has your best interests at heart. Humble people have a gift of fully seeing, hearing, and accepting you as you are. They have a compassion for humanity.
[A] humble person is authentic, modest, empathetic, truthful, and unpretentious, and has your
best interests at heart. Humble people … have a compassion for humanity.
Arrogance and entitlement
Arrogant behavior is displayed by a superiority complex and inflated ego. In contrast to those who demonstrate humility, arrogant people have blind spots to their own faults and limitations. And, to make matters worse, they are ignorant and dismissive of the capabilities of those around them. Have you noticed that arrogant people are the first to take credit and the last to accept blame? Have you experienced that they consistently put their personal agendas ahead of what is good for the whole, and that they are overconfident and see themselves as being better, smarter, and more worthy than you? The psychological term for arrogance is narcissism.
Arrogant people live each day with a sense of entitlement … a belief that they deserve special treatment, recognition, and privileges for things that they did not earn. It is their opinion that the rules that apply to others should not apply to them. What do entitled people do when they don’t get their way? You got it—they lash out with fits of anger or frustration. Often, entitled people surround themselves with others who fuel their egos. Unfortunately, their sense of entitlement causes chaos and uncertainty in their own personal lives in the form of shallow relationships, aggressive behavior, and unfulfilled aspirations.
There is a silver lining. While appearing bold, secure, and supremely confident on the outside, arrogant and entitled people are often insecure and fearful on the inside. They are searching for their authentic self … the inner peace known by humble people.
Best practices to embrace humility
The benefits of humility are numerous. Tiara Blain, a researcher who promotes mental, physical, and physical well-being, conveys that humility has many wonderful outcomes: “Humility can produce more happiness, positive emotions, and well-being. If you’re able to be happy for others and their accomplishments and not consumed by jealousy or self-pity, this can help develop more positive relationships.” Below are five best practices to embrace humility:
- Develop an attitude of gratitude. In the book The Gratitude Principle, Dan Sullivan, founder and president of The Strategic Coach (www.strategiccoach.com), states, “We all love the grateful person, especially if he or she is talented and successful. The grateful individual is deeply appreciated, and people go out of their way to assist their progress because there is something happy and special about them. Conversely, we quickly take a disliking to the person who shows no gratitude for the opportunities, advantages, and support others have provided. We want to put obstacles in their way.”
While there are many ways to practice gratitude, Sullivan’s following four should be considered:
- Three good things. Each and every day, identify three good things that went well and replay them in your mind or write them down in a gratitude journal.
- Positive people. Surround yourself with others who demonstrate gratitude and a positive outlook.
- Remove obstacles. Remove specific obstacle(s) from your mind so you may visualize good things in your life.
- Thank you notes. This ritual will positively impact your life and spread the attitude of gratitude to others as well.
- Strengthen connections with others. An essential quality of humbleness is your desire to value others. Spending time actively listening with the goal of drawing out others’ feelings, values, and uncertainties demonstrates an empathetic character strength. Empathy encompasses your ability to be aware, sensitive to, and vicariously understand the feelings, thoughts, emotions, and experiences of others.
- Embrace your humanness. While pride suggests that you must solve your own problems, humility positions you to recognize when you need to ask for help. You are human and need the support of those who care about you. Asking for help demonstrates a sense of security and self-confidence.
- Solicit feedback. Taking the time to ask others for open and honest feedback is a sign of humility. The act of exposing yourself to constructive criticism is not easy. Embracing vulnerability is a strength as it allows you to accept imperfections, inconsistencies, and past mistakes.
- Cultivate self-awareness. If you want to practice humility, it is important that you become aware of your flaws. People who view themselves as flawless are unrealistic and demonstrate a fixed mindset. Often, it is the insecurities that people don’t acknowledge that serve as the source of egotistic or self-righteous behavior.
Humility … a desired trait in the game of life.
Scott Addis is CEO of Beyond Insurance and an industry leader. His agency was recognized by Rough Notes magazine as a Marketing Agency of the Month, he was a Philadelphia finalist for Inc. magazine’s “Entrepreneur of the Year” award, and was selected as one of the “25 Most Innovative Agents in America.”
Beyond Insurance is a consulting firm that offers leadership training, cultural transformation, and talent and tactical development for enlightened professionals who are looking to take their organization to the next level. Since 2007, the proven and repeatable processes of Beyond Insurance have transformed agencies as measured by enhanced organic growth, productivity, profitability, and value in the marketplace.
To learn more about Beyond Insurance, contact Scott at firstname.lastname@example.org.