Nobody likes a know-it-all.
It takes a very particular kind of character to admit when you haven’t the foggiest idea what you’re talking about. Nobody likes doing it; you look like a dodo, and it’s embarrassing. It might feel like it’s easier to try and fake it til you make it. But in actuality, it speaks greater of you when you can admit you don’t know about something.
In a study from Pepperdine University, the term “intellectual humility” was coined. Basically, intellectual humility refers to having the insight and honesty to admit that you’re completely clueless. Researchers ran a battery of tests to determine their subjects’ IH levels through questionaires and one-on-one discussions. The key to these tests was testing a subject’s actual intelligence versus what they perceive their intelligence to be. If someone thinks they’re a lot smarter than they actually are, they have notably low IH (which means low insight and honesty).
Based on their findings, the researchers came to an interesting conclusion: people with higher intellectual humility aren’t necessarily smarter in general, but they are often smarter than those with less intellectual humility. Intellectual humility ties into curiosity and critical thinking skills; when someone doesn’t think they know everything, they’re ready and willing to learn more.
People with higher intellectual humility were also noted to be less prone to “social vigilantism.” In other words, those with greater humility feel less of a compulsion to enforce their own beliefs of the world and how it works upon other people. This is part of the reason people tend to like humble individuals, because they don’t get up in your face about the way you live your life.
So next time you’re in a big social gathering and someone brings up something you don’t know, instead of nodding and smiling blankly, ask “what is that?” Yeah, you may feel a little silly, but then they’ll tell you, and you’ll learn a little more about the world. At least, assuming the people you’re with are humble enough not to be jerks about it.