Byron's Babbles

Eliminating Disdain & Maintaining Respect

In the leadership development work I do we always all agree that relationships are the key to everything. And, they really are. Healthy and respectful working relationships are a must if you want an effective and enjoyable workplace, organization, community, or even world. One cornerstone to healthy relationship building is intellectual humility. When practicing intellectual humility, we open our minds to learning. With intellectual humility we become wiser. It is really about realizing that we can learn from opposing views and have more constructive discussions, even when we disagree. Practicing intellectual humility allows us to be less judgmental of others.

This has actually been a topic of my blog posts many times before. I began thinking about virtue signaling, which I first blogged about in Leading Without “Virtue Signaling.” Then, this morning, when reading in Amor Towles’ incredible book The Lincoln Highway, I came across this statement about Emmett Watson, an 18-year-old Nebraskan farm kid just released from a Kansas juvenile detention center after serving 15 months for involuntary manslaughter: “Emmett was raised to hold no man in disdain. To hold another man in disdain, his father said, would presume you knew so much about his lot, so much about his intentions, about his actions, both public and private, that you could rank his character against your own without fear of misjudgment.” That’s a pretty powerful statement, don’t you think? By not judging, virtue signaling, or holding others in disdain we enable a community that values learning and where learning happens when what is not known or understood is acknowledged.

We must model this humility by admitting when we do not know or understand something. Modeling also involves recognizing the value in opinions that are different from our own. In the face of conflicting evidence, we need to be open to changing our opinions. The disdain and contempt described by Emmett’s father destroys teams, communities, and relationships. It prevents trust and respect and makes it hard for any real human warmth. It is tangibly damaging, causes stress and can harm people emotionally, mentally and ultimately physically.

Finally, I am reminded of what Carlo Strenger said: The difference between civilized disdain and political correctness is that the former allows one to feel disdain for a person’s or group’s views or beliefs while maintaining respect for the human beings that hold them.” There will be gaps in knowledge, ideological divides, differences of opinion, and cultural differences, but we must strive for fruitful cooperation and shared learning to be effective world citizens.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: