Lesson 3.9

Revising Our Viewpoints—or—Exercising Intellectual Humility

Dive into this topic by watching the video, followed by key explanations and exercises below.


Key Concepts:


The 4th Element of intellectual humility is the ability to actually put it into practice: Revising Our Viewpoint In Light Of New Information

  • Remember, that intellectual humility doesn’t mean gullibility, so we don’t have to change as a result of new information. We just have to be willing to.

  • Even so, our own thinking patterns can often cause us to be “gullible” to bad logic, depending on the situation…

Even if you’re generally high in Intellectual Humility, a given situation can spring you out of it.

  • We all have weak spots and blind spots.

  • We all have memories and experiences that lead us to be overconfident in some areas—without us even realizing it.

  • Once you’ve gotten a good grasp of the other 4 elements—Respect, Lack of Overconfidence, and Ego Separation—the best way to increase your chances of always behaving with high intellectual humility in a given situation is to learn about your cognitive distortions and psychologically “prime” yourself to overcome them whether you see them coming or not.

Cognitive Distortions:

  • Cognitive distortions are unhelpful patterns of thinking, or biases that prevent us from thinking clearly. They’re often very related to the fallacies we learned about in Lesson 2.9, and it’s natural to fall into them.

  • The most common indicators of cognitive distortions include:

    • All or nothing thinking

    • Making generalizations

    • Dwelling on single points of evidence rather than all of the evidence

    • Disqualifying the positive

    • Jumping to conclusions (mind reading or fortune telling)

    • Magnification and minimization (making small things catastrophic and vice versa)

    • Reasoning through emotion rather than logic

    • Should/must statements

    • Labeling

    • Making things personal

  • You can dig deeper into the definitions of cognitive biases and distortions at this interactive website: https://yourbias.is/

  • And you can learn about your own cognitive distortions by taking some of the mini-quizzes at https://www.clearerthinking.org/tools-and-mini-courses

To act with IH, you need to create psychological safety for yourself.

  • When you think you may not be thinking clearly, it needs to feel safe for you to change your mind, or you’ll devolve into more cognitive distortions.

  • It also needs to feel safe for your to express yourself.

  • Often, the best way to create this safety for yourself is to take some time out to breathe, think, and re-approach the conversation or situation with renewed openness and confidence in your desire to find the truth (as opposed to confidence in your opinions).

  • Often you will feel safer to express yourself in a smaller group or in a 1 on 1 situation, versus in front of a big group in the moment.

  • Say, “I don’t know… yet” and take a walk—or go home and through the exercises below if the situation makes sense for them.

Homework Exercise: Negative Thought Journal

Try this for the next couple of days:

  1. Throughout your day, make a note of any time you have an automatic, negative thought.

    • E.g. “2pm during the event discussion”

  2. When you have space to do so, write down in your journal where you were and what you were doing, along with any other relevant info about the situation. Try to paint the scene objectively if you can.

    • E.g. “I was discussing the upcoming event with Sarah and she responded to my idea for the venue in a tone that I didn’t like.”

  3. Now write down the emotion(s) you felt and rate the strength of the emotion, on a scale of 0 to 10.

    • E.g. Angry: 4. Shame: 7.

  4. Now write down the negative automatic thought you had in response to this situation and emotion.

    • E.g. I thought, “Sarah is a jerk and doesn’t care about my feelings more than the stupid event venue.”

  5. Now note the evidence for and against your negative thought, using only observations the Computer could say Yes to. E.g.

    • For: Sarah changed her speaking voice to a tone that sounded sarcastic to me. She did not go with my idea, and did not ask how I felt.

    • Against: I cannot read Sarah’s mind. Sarah did not say she doesn’t care about my feelings. And she has, in the past, agreed with some of my ideas.

  6. Now come up with a less negative alternative story to your negative one. This is only a story, so it isn’t necessarily right. But it should be a conclusion that the evidence could also lend itself to.

    • E.g. My story could be that Sarah thought she made a funny joke, and did not realize it might hurt my feelings.

  7. Finally, after thinking through this alternative scenario, rate the strength of emotion(s) you feel about the situation that happened.

    • E.g. Anger: 0. Shame 5. I now just feel ashamed for jumping to the conclusion, but am not angry at Sarah.

Ideally this exercise leads to a change in negative feelings, but it doesn’t have to. The most important thing is it helps you practice not being fixed in your conclusions. If negative emotions persist after you explore alternatives, it’s a good time to approach the person using the toolkit we learned about in Lesson 2.15, and have an honest conversation.