Humility is a good thing for researchers to have (created 2010-02-08).

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I've been writing a series of articles about the seven deadly sins of researchers. One of these sins is pride. I might need to talk about the alternative to pride, which is humility. I believe that researchers should adopt a humble outlook. Humility is often misunderstood as a bad thing. It is not.

Humility is not passivity. It is not a demand that we cower before others because we are inferior. Rather, it is a recognition that we need to understand other perspectives before we act. It follows from one of Stephen Covey's Seven Principles "Seek first to understand, then to be understood."

Humility is also not a synonym for low self esteem. In fact, it takes someone with a strong sense of self-worth to truly adopt an attitude of humility.

One of my favorite quotes is from a Shakespearean scholar who just found proof that one of his theories about the bard was incorrect.

"No one who cannot rejoice in the discovery of his own mistakes deserves to be called a scholar." Donald Foster, as quoted in A Scholar Recants on His 'Shakespeare' Discovery. William S. Niederkorn. The New York Times, June 20, 2002.

That is the true face of humility.

My thoughts on humility have been germinating in the back of my head for some time. A recent column in the Kansas City Star by Lewis Diuguid inspired me to put some of these ideas down on paper.