I was reading an article in the Times this weekend about Intellectual Humility and people’s willingness to accept the possibility that their beliefs and attitudes might be wrong.
Research shows that “At the high end of the trait are people who recognise their beliefs are fallible and are willing to consider the possibility that they are incorrect”.
“At the low end of the trait, people are generally convinced that their views are correct”. Saying this, most of us lie somewhere in between.
Although I am sure the article is written with Donald Trump in mind, it started me thinking about the difficulty most couples have in accepting different points of view from that of their partner’s.
Couples in therapy often spend too much time arguing their point rather than accepting and listening to each other. Many of my clients talk about needing to be heard by their partner. The desire to be listened to and understood is the foundation of a strong and loving relationship and helps a person feel valued and respected.
Here are some tips for healthy Intelligent Humility:
Listen to your partner. Go into the discussion with an open mind and before interrupting, listen and mirror (say) back what you think you heard. Ask your partner if this is what they meant and listen further if there’s more. Not an easy task and requires the patience of a saint.
Do not assume you know what is about to be said. Clear your mind before coming up with your own narrative. Again, this takes patience and requires a lot of breathing!
Be curious and lean into the understanding that there is not only one-way of seeing an issue. Ask questions and ask yourself about where you might have learned these views, reflect on whether these views are still useful.
Have compassion towards your own feelings and argue your views but do it with sympathy and an open mind.
Remember, we can feel triggered and therefore defensive when we are up against a different point of view so move forward gently.