Why Humility Matters in Conversations

Feb 22, 2024
Black mailbox with an orange sticker that says Stay Humble in all capital letters.

If you are humble you are more likely to foster conversations worth having, and if you foster conversations worth having, it will bring forth your humility. Why does this matter? It doesn’t … unless you want to strengthen relationships, fuel productive and meaningful engagement, increase wellbeing, and inspire creativity and innovation in the workplace.

The Path to Humility:

Choosing Between Direct and Indirect Approaches

Now more than ever, we need communities and organizations that tap into the potential of people; we need their strengths, gifts, and talents if we are to respond to our complex and rapidly changing world. Being humble and having conversations worth having are pathways to the end. Humility creates an atmosphere of connection, safety, and mutual respect. That bring out the best in people. There are two paths to being humble; one direct and one indirect.

Choose the path that works best for you.

Path One: Embracing Humility (Especially on National Be Humble Day):

Key Characteristics and Practices for Cultivating Humility

Sandrine Faucher and Katia Gorshkova shared in Canadian Living identify the following five characteristics of a humble person:

  1. Practice self-awareness and authentic, sincere use of your words.
  2. Ask for advice, ask questions, and don’t claim to know everything.
  3. Admit your mistakes.
  4. Listen deeply when others are talking.
  5. Have precise knowledge of a variety of subjects without bragging or showing off.

Humble people treat others as equals, with respect and as worthy of their time. Instead of feeling less than, in the company of a humble person, you feel valued, encouraged, included, and uplifted. They may acknowledge your accomplishments or convey their belief in your ability. Their behavior typically inspires you to do your best.

Can you commit to these humble behaviors today? If not, try path two.

Path Two: Cultivating Conversations Worth Having:

Strategies for Facilitating Outcome-Focused and Inquiry-Based Dialogue

A conversation worth having is outcomes-focused and inquiry-based. The guiding principles for meaningful conversations are tuning in; asking generative questions, and using a positive frame.

  • Tune-in. To be intentional, check in with your emotions and body-mindset. If you’re feeling defensive or fearful, it’s going to influence the tone and direction of your conversation. Pause, breathe, and get curious.  Are you feeling superior? Less than or demeaned by the other? Keep breathing slowly, reminding yourself that every person has value and is worthy, including yourself. Be intentional with your words; come from a place of self-awareness and strive for a mutually desired outcome. 
  • Ask generative questions and listen. Don’t think you have to have the answers. We live in a complex world of rapid change. Answers that applied in the past are no longer effective. We need questions that inspire creative thinking and the emergence of innovative ideas. A generative question is one that comes from a place of genuine curiosity. It changes the way people think and feel, and it ignites new possibilities. 
  • Use a positive frame. Talk about what you want instead of what you don’t want. Instead of talking about problems, talk about the desired outcome you and others would like and then ask questions to move the conversation toward that outcome. 
Conversations worth having come from a place of humility.


Humility Enhances the Quality of Conversations

Whether you choose path one or path two, your humility will show. You decide which approach most resonates with you. But do choose to be humble even if just for today. Then pay attention to the outcomes and see if you want to continue! 

For more on communication practices that foster humility, while inspiring the best from everyone, visit ConversationsWorthHaving.today. Download your free Conversation Toolkit. Use coupon code BEHUMBLE for 15% off our April Conversations Bootcamps.

Photo by E. Vitka on Unsplash

This thoughtful how-to guide is contributed by Cheri Torres, PhD. Founding Partner in CWH Institute, co-author of Conversations Worth Having. For more insights, inspirations, and how-to's, subscribe to our list below. ⬇️


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