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Humility in the Workplace

Humility in the Workplace

‘Humility’ is a widely understood word. It’s not one of those words people will pause to look up the meaning for. Generally, people love the thought of humility. It’s one of those ‘good’ values we strive for; one we admire. Yes, most people feel they know what it means to be humble.

Demonstrating it however, is a whole other matter.

For instance, a person distracted by their Blackberry or cell phone, unable to focus on the conversation you are having with them face to face, is so filled with self-importance, they cannot possibly claim to be humble. Humility is the lack of self-importance, is it not?

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The person who impatiently shakes their head as you explain a new idea you are presenting to them, finally breaking in to say, “We’ve tried that here before, and it just doesn’t work,” cannot claim to be humble. Humility is being open-minded, and realizing that no matter how long you’ve been around, you couldn’t possibly have experienced everything there is to experience, right?

Then there’s the person who just got a promotion, and the first purchase order they write is for new business cards, despite the fact that the have a box left of the old ones with the same mailing address, email address, and phone numbers. Never mind that they mostly attach v-cards electronically these days, and that’s why the old box lasted so long.

In new product development, there’s a discussion going on about complaints customers have with existing products, and someone says, “Well, they wouldn’t have that problem if they followed the instructions in the first place.” That can’t possibly be humility, when we stop listening to what our customers are asking for, and assume they just don’t ‘get it,’ right?

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If some of our common behaviors in workplaces are an indication, we don’t understand humility very much at all.

Those who are humble, feel the rest of us are pretty interesting. Those with humility have a genuine desire to discover what other people can offer. They are intrigued by how others think, and how others feel differently from them.

We can be confident, and we can be self-assured; humility does not call for us to be meek, or consider ourselves lower in stature. We do not require less of ourselves, and we take our role and our responsibilities seriously. However what humility does, is create a sort of receptacle of acceptance in us, so we are open to being filled with the knowledge and opinions of others. Humility is a kind of hunger for more abundance. The greater our humility, the greater our fascination with the world around us, and the more we learn.

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To have inner drive, to want to be successful is a good thing. I do believe that part of humility is believing in those possibilities which presently may be larger than life for you. However humility also speaks to the demeanor and attitude we must have as we seek our success, so that our inner drive and desires are in balance with our composure, and our conduct with those who interact with us. After all, they could factor into being a big part of the success we eventually will enjoy.

One of the best definitions I have ever heard for humility came from one of my employees when I was still in corporate management. Short and sweet, it’s one I have never forgotten. He was talking about a new supervisor we’d recently hired into the department, explaining how she listened to everyone on staff in such a great way. Like they mattered. Like everything they did and said mattered. He had said she seemed very humble to him because as she demonstrated it, “Humility is an act of courtesy.”

I like that.

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We were not put on this earth alone. Frankly, others have to live with us, and our own practice of open-minded, fill-me-up humility can make it a much more interesting and pleasant experience for all of us.


Rosa Say

is the author of Managing with Aloha, Bringing Hawaii’s Universal Values to the Art of Business and the Talking Story blog. She is the founder and head coach of Say Leadership Coaching, a company dedicated to bringing nobility to the working arts of management and leadership.For more of her ideas, click to her Thursday columns in the archives; you’ll find her index in the left column of www.ManagingWithAloha.com

Rosa’s Previous Thursday Column was: What are the Rules? Hopefully, none.

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Last Updated on January 18, 2019

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

7 Ways To Deal With Negative People

Some people will have a rain cloud hanging over them, no matter what the weather is outside. Their negative attitude is toxic to your own moods, and you probably feel like there is little you can do about it.

But that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

If you want to effectively deal with negative people and be a champion of positivity, then your best route is to take definite action through some of the steps below.

1. Limit the time you spend with them.

First, let’s get this out of the way. You can be more positive than a cartoon sponge, but even your enthusiasm has a chance of being afflicted by the constant negativity of a friend.

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In fact, negativity has been proven to damage your health physically, making you vulnerable to high levels of stress and even cardiac disease. There’s no reason to get hurt because of someone else’s bad mood.

Though this may be a little tricky depending on your situation, working to spend slightly less time around negative people will keep your own spirits from slipping as well.

2. Speak up for yourself.

Don’t just absorb the comments that you are being bombarded with, especially if they are about you. It’s wise to be quick to listen and slow to speak, but being too quiet can give the person the impression that you are accepting what’s being said.

3. Don’t pretend that their behavior is “OK.”

This is an easy trap to fall into. Point out to the person that their constant negativity isn’t a good thing. We don’t want to do this because it’s far easier to let someone sit in their woes, and we’d rather just stay out of it.

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But if you want the best for this person, avoid giving the false impression that their negativity is normal.

4. Don’t make their problems your problems.

Though I consider empathy a gift, it can be a dangerous thing. When we hear the complaints of a friend or family member, we typically start to take on their burdens with them.

This is a bad habit to get into, especially if this is a person who is almost exclusively negative. These types of people are prone to embellishing and altering a story in order to gain sympathy.

Why else would they be sharing this with you?

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5. Change the subject.

When you suspect that a conversation is starting to take a turn for the negative, be a champion of positivity by changing the subject. Of course, you have to do this without ignoring what the other person said.

Acknowledge their comment, but move the conversation forward before the euphoric pleasure gained from complaining takes hold of either of you.

6. Talk about solutions, not problems.

Sometimes, changing the subject isn’t an option if you want to deal with negative people, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be positive.

I know that when someone begins dumping complaints on me, I have a hard time knowing exactly what to say. The key is to measure your responses as solution-based.

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You can do this by asking questions like, “Well, how could this be resolved?” or, “How do you think they feel about it?”

Use discernment to find an appropriate response that will help your friend manage their perspectives.

7. Leave them behind.

Sadly, there are times when we have to move on without these friends, especially if you have exhausted your best efforts toward building a positive relationship.

If this person is a family member, you can still have a functioning relationship with them, of course, but you may still have to limit the influence they have over your wellbeing.

That being said, what are some steps you’ve taken to deal with negative people? Let us know in the comments.

You may also want to read: How to Stop the Negative Spin of Thoughts, Emotions and Actions.

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