A Case For Humility: Social Media & Business
Questions Never Hurt Anyone
And Saying “I Don’t Know” Doesn’t Need To Either
Our tolerance of uncertainty, not knowing, being able to assign greater knowledge to others, admit mistakes and have the ability to remain flexible and receptive when our minds are screaming “But I’m right” all have something in common and that’s humility.
No need to dig in our heels and make declarations that we know all. We don’t. And the benefits of not knowing everything and knowing that we don’t, far outweigh whatever protection we think our ideas need. We can drop the defenses. Such a relief!
I am curious about the sense and sensibility; the rhyme and reason of humility. Is it Pride or Prejudice that keeps us locked in our own closed thought and communication systems? I’m curious not only because it has huge implications in our personal lives and relationships but also in the running of our businesses and navigating the sometimes turbulent waters of our business circumstances and the accompanying relationships- or even if they’re not turbulent but calm and easygoing. It also affects our time spent on social media and the relationships we develop there.
When we can remove inflated self-assurance from the equation, our supposed “need” and drive to be right or even to feel we always know best, our potential for healthy [and useful] humility grows.
As professionals, it’s important that we have exemplary expertise, solid grasp of our duties, the services we offer, the tasks we perform, the products we manufacture and sell. After all, we take on a serious responsibility when we open our doors to conduct business. We must possess the appropriate skill set and knowledge base; that is not negotiable. Yet our encounters with prospects, customers, clients, colleagues, audience will always present [welcome] opportunity for learning, questioning, absorbing new material, new points of view and differing approaches, differing ways of seeing things –if we can see it that way.
“Genius is not that you are smarter than everyone else. It is that you are ready to receive the inspiration.” Albert Einstein
So What About Prejudice?
Humans have a tendency to scope others in a fast scan hardwired for survival. We sometimes perceive other people two-dimensionally- it’s natural. We catalog and categorize using our preconceptions about the people we come in contact with and sadly, it’s often to their disadvantage. It takes practice and an open mind as well as a certain awareness and compassion to avoid doing that. It takes some humility.
Someone walks into the room, sits down for your first meeting, or shows up in your Google Plus stream to comment on your latest post. You have never met them before, they are unfamiliar, you don’t know what to expect, what they might have to offer, you don’t trust them yet. But you have an ability to remain open and flexible, curious and receptive to the possibility that they will bring value to the table, something you yourself would never have considered and suddenly you find yourself able to connect. That’s beautiful. It lends each encounter potential.
Owning some humility, even if it’s just a touch, will enrich our options for expansion and create space for that long list of possibilities above. And thus we grow. We get better at what we do. We have more to offer. We learn to hear differently. We learn to accept differences and move forward productively; use those very differences rather than fight against that tide.
But even beyond that, we contribute to co-creating a more purposeful and in-sync community where we can collaborate, exchange ideas, move into the future peaceably together. Our small local community and the bigger world community each benefit as do we as individuals.
“What is profoundly powerful about embracing humility and publicly acknowledging errors is the link between authenticity and the success of the individual and the organization.”
Creative Leadership: Humility and Being Wrong, Doug Guthrie & Sudhir Venkatesh
Listening Is A First Step. Trust Is Another.
Trusting ourselves. Trusting in a situation. Trusting another person. Trusting that something useful might emerge when we let down our defenses. Trusting that time will unfold something unexpected and likely fortunate. Those instances all lend us the strength to be humble. Yes, the strength.
Humility doesn’t cancel out self-esteem. That’s where the confidence to admit to not being the smartest in the room, to not always knowing the solutions, or having the answers, being able to relinquish control comes from. Inside.
Hardship Breeds Humility And Compassion
I’ve had the somewhat upside down inside out privilege [I usually don’t exactly think of it as privilege until later- if I’m lucky] of being in some tough spots during the course of my life and getting the benefit of lessons learned. Those times have shown me both how small and also how large I really am. I imagine that to be universal.
“Something very beautiful happens to people when their world has fallen apart: a humility, a nobility, a higher intelligence emerges at just the point when our knees hit the floor. Perhaps, in a way, that’s where humanity is now: about to discover we’re not as smart as we thought we were, will be forced by life to surrender our attacks and defenses which avail us of nothing, and finally break through into the collective beauty of who we really are.”
[Facebook post, August 31, 2013]” Marianne Williamson (on my birthday)
A grace emerges. Enduring challenges or surrendering to vulnerability opens us to the knowledge that there are bigger things than us, bigger things at play; brings us down to size and grows the muscles of compassion. It’s from there that we can realize our delicate humanity, how much we need to pay attention to those around us, to hear in new ways, to accept, to recognize the commonality within our differences and to let ourselves learn from others without bias and prejudice.
Everyone has something to offer us. And we them. And that often means understanding that we are not invincible nor are we necessarily a force to be reckoned with. There are other equal forces as long as we are willing and able to step quietly aside to allow it to happen – get out of the way so it can come our way.
Nothing will bring us level with the knee-dom of humility like surviving hardship; when our experience makes us feel small and powerless we learn just how lucky we are simply to take breath and be graced with being here. It becomes an almost effortless elixir for ridding ourselves of pretension or arrogance. But because we are human, it can be a challenge to scale the slippery barriers that keep us from humility and gratitude. It’s worth a try, though.
With the copious amounts of time we spend on social media, it strikes me that there is no better time than now to give this some thought.
As a small business owner, I can see the relevance and value of examining my own traverse towards The State of Humble and how I can get better at it.
What Got Me Thinking?
This post was inspired by a recent Hangout on Air on Google Plus hosted by Dennis Duce (and Stephanie Sims in absentia) with guests David Amerland and Teodora Petkova which I highly recommend you watch, and a couple of recent articles from Rand Fishkin on negative “self-talk”.
The Hangout is packed with great stuff, but there was one quote that I found stunning from Teodora and I’ll leave you with that:
“Humility is the power to surrender to change and to embrace and trust others.” – Teodora Petkova
What brings you to your knees? What demands that you say “I don’t know”? When do you really listen to what others and even your opponent or your debate “partner” has to say? How often do you question your own knowledge, your own willingness to change or to shift an opinion? What circumstances lead you to surrender? What does it take? To have some humility?
“Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real.” – Thomas Merton
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Pre-Remix image from iStock, Remix: Gina Fiedel