Be Humble?


Posted by & filed under Blog, The Gravitas Factor.

What do you think of the term ‘IMHO’?

Do you use it yourself? And if so, what message are you trying to convey?

There is a school of thought that the H stands for Honest, so much so that there’s been a big old Twitter fight about it with the mighty Humble coming out on top as everyone seemed to shout (quite loudly!) that Humble was the first incarnation of this initialism. So, for the purpose of this post – I’m going to stick with Humble.

Which gets me to my point. What emotions and thoughts does IMHO conjure up when read in a text, article, email or note? As a speaker, are you at risk of de-valuing your opinion by pre-empting it with the IMHO pretext? I think perhaps so (IMHO!).

Now, don’t get me wrong, being humble is not a bad thing, far from it. Being humble can actually be very powerful used in the right way and is undoubtedly a sign of gravitas. Oprah Winfrey described Nelson Mandela as the most humble person she ever met (see video here).

We all know those people who don’t shout the loudest or dominate the conversation, but when they have something to say, my gosh it’s of value.

But when used to set the scene for your next point, there is argument that using it could weaken your message or even get your audience’s backs up. If they’re bothering to listen to you, you should know that what you have to say is of value and worth listening to.

We can all be guilty of compromising our thoughts and this can be for a number of reasons. Firstly, we’re not fully confident in our thoughts in the first place so we place this pre-requisite as a safety measure so as to not fully expose ourselves and secondly, we do not want to be perceived as a know it all or a show off. And so even though we are hugely confident in what we are about to say, we feel we need to frame it with self-deprecation in order to be accepted.

When talking about leadership, there is a lot of evidence to suggest that leaders who showcase vulnerability and humility often attract and retain a loyal workforce that will go that extra mile. This is compared to ‘showy’ leaders whose brash, boisterous and confident manner can often intimidate and offend.

A great example currently is Apple. Now, we all know about the late Steve Jobs. He was an example of a ‘showy’ leader. He was notoriously difficult to work with, he often treated people poorly and acted without empathy and humility. This was forgiven due to the fact he was seen as a genius and a leading influencer and game-changer in the tech world.

However, when we look at Apple now and the man that replaced him, Tim Cook (or Tim Apple if you’re Donald Trump – but don’t get me started on him!), who is a humble, quiet and reserved man. Despite this – and arguably because of it – he has been credited with growing Apple’s success and increasing diversity and equality within its workforce. He is a renowned listener and, by staying humble, has gained upmost respect from his employees and is thought of as a great leader.

There is no right or wrong answer about the use of IMHO – I think the key lies with the user and their knowledge of their audience and predicted reaction from them. For some, IMHO can be seen as being intrusive and an unwelcome introduction to unwanted comments, to others it can be seen as offering valuable insight in a diplomatic and polite manner.

For me, I use IMO, which leaves out the ‘humble/honest’ and is a valuable message which tells me – and the world, that my opinion counts.

What do you think?



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