At the November 30, 2021 session of the Intercultural Sharing Circle, I posed the following questions to the participants about their relationship with humility. I am humbled to have this opportunity to share my responses with my readers.
- What does humility mean to you? Is it important to you? How do you express it?
As an intercultural mindset and leadership coach, I have learned that it is not possible to learn and grow without humility. Cliché aside, the times when I was able to empathize with other people and grow from those interactions and experiences were the times when I was my most humble self, for example, when I realized that I had made a mistake, when I needed to apologize, or fix the mistake I had made.
When I tapped into humility and became aware of the privileged position I had inherited or occupied in certain situations or cultural contexts, sometimes undeservedly, I was able to shift perspective and adapt appropriately to overcome a challenge and achieve a goal. Those were the times I also gained my deepest and best insights which I invested back into the work I do.
In other words, humility is very important to me as a professional value and resource. Without humility, I cannot grow professionally or personally. Without it, I cannot be an effective leader or coach or consultant. Humility is one of the building blocks of bridging cultural differences and making deep connections.
One way is which I express humility is through my willingness and effort to keep learning from others and not assume that I already know all there is to know on a particular subject. Humility is my stepping stone to Curiosity. It can help me to maintain an intercultural mindset by being curious about the motivations and values that underpin the different ways other people behave and respond to their environment or how they view the world and make sense of it.
- What challenges or issues do you face in being humble and expressing humility?
The main challenge I face in expressing humility is that I assume I am humble when I am not. Time and time again, I realize that my ego gets in the way and maybe I get “my knickers twisted into a knot”. For example, I want to be heard, or I want to be right, or I want others to think well of me, etc.
Another challenge is that sometimes, I may assume other people are not humble, or that they don’t value humility. Perhaps, I don’t know or understand how they express humility, because they express it in a different way from me. Just because they express it differently doesn’t mean they don’t value it at all, or as much as I do.
Last, different people may have different attitudes and responses to situations and problems according to their values. Being humble means learning to accept those cultural or values differences and not insist other people place the same level of importance on a particular value or belief or practice as I do, or accept that they place importance on a different value, or belief. It also means not judging them negatively for not doing as I do, or living as I live, etc. In short, the challenge of humility in this case is to realize that sometimes, I will be alone and it’s fine to be alone. There is no stigma or shame attached to being alone.
- What are some possible strategies you can use to promote understanding about humility and share it with others in your team, organization, or workplace?
I can help to promote and share humility by not assuming others need my help and by checking with them if they do or do not, and by accepting it when they refuse my help. I can learn to accept rejection without taking it personally as an act of humility.
I can also promote and share humility with others by asking for help. It takes courage to do this and so it can be difficult, but if I don’t, I won’t learn and improve, or I won’t find other or better ways to overcome my challenges.