Personally, I have been very troubled by the deep divides that currently exist in many areas of our society – religious, political, racial, as well as the differences between individuals.
I even find myself wondering if the gulf between what something feels like to me and to others is impenetrable.
It is so easy to disapprove of others whose preferences, values, and behaviors differ from our own.
Honestly, I try to have a healthy tolerance of different viewpoints, but the truth is I can easily catch myself thinking “How in the world can you believe what you are saying?” I imagine their words flowing over my head and thinking “What the f…?”
I’ve reached the conclusion that the crux of managing our differences has to do with humility.
Let me explain.
The Importance of Knowing You Might Be Wrong
We all know people who think they are always right - first to offer an idea, and / or give their opinion. They have an insatiable need to convince you they’re smarter and better than others. If you question their thinking or challenge their expertise, they can easily feel derailed.
I became particularly intrigued with the idea of “know-it-all” people after reading a book that was recommended to me.
The book is entitled Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know, by Adam Grant, an organizational psychologist.
Mr. Grant aims to explore how we change our minds and how we persuade others. The book invites its readers to rethink and let go of knowledge and opinions that may no longer serve them well. He recommends that we think less like preachers, prosecutors or politicians and that we should be humble about our convictions and beliefs, curious about the alternatives and open to discovery and flexible thinking.
The Importance Of Being Open To What I Don’t Know
Like others, I am predisposed to seeing the world through my own eyes. Nevertheless, it goes without saying that this tendency contradicts a requisite that is critical and fundamental to my role as a therapist – the need to be empathic, or the ability to gain a sense of what it is like to be another person. Making empathic connections with my clients allows obstacles to fall away between us and a sense of togetherness to develop.
However, despite my best intentions, sometimes it’s difficult to find the sweet spot between presenting myself as confident and effective and admitting I may be wrong. Like other professionals I can fall into the trap of fearing that admitting my own limitations will erode my credibility and trustworthiness.
Being aware of my blind spots, for example presuming I know more about how a client feels than they do, is continuously needed. Being open to learn from the experiences of others and making room for their opposing views requires humility, not arrogance. In order for me to flourish as a therapist, I need to create a balance between my convictions and humility. And, I must be open to my own ignorance.
How To Stop Needing To Be Right All The Time
Adam Grant would say that rethinking needs to become a regular habit, and that if we are to coexist peacefully, we need to let go of preaching that we are right and prosecuting others that are wrong. The truth is that we’re all wrong more often than we’d like to admit.
The good news is that we can open ourselves up to others by learning humility.
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