How to Leave Your Ego at the Door  Thoughts on approaches that might maximize humility

People often misidentify self-confidence for egotistical behaviour, and vice versa. These two have a very distinct difference. Confidence is usually backed with logic, reasoning or experience. An egotistical stance, on the other hand, might be backed with, well, some sort of inflexible stubbornness or heavy feeling of accomplishment.

Egos — big egos, especially — can be dangerous. They deter self-development and prevent the good flow of ideas and creativity, while also wounding reputation in the process.

Most of us fall victim to this — after all, we’re human. We might walk into a meeting so confident in our idea that we unintentionally turn a blind eye to other, superior possibilities or concepts. When we do this, we choose to listen less and talk more, only to find out later that we missed an opportunity to get critical insights.

This small list is something I use to keep myself in check. Whenever I walk into a meeting, an event — or to anything where I’m not alone — I tend to follow this.

1. Keep introductions short
Good conversations have a natural feel. Try to make every conversation unique. This starts with sharing the minimally important information about yourself: name, interests, job or school major. That’s enough to get a good discussion started. The point of your introduction is not to share your life story; it’s to start a conversation.

What’s next? Let your discussion guide what you choose to share. Introductions have a huge impact on the structure of the remainder of your conversation. If you keep an introduction at the minimum, it opens more doors to talk about something you may otherwise not have expected.

The best part about this: because it leaves the beginning of a conversation open ended, it provides greater possibility of connecting at a personal level.

2. Don’t let recognition or achievement get to your head
Win an award or get accepted to your dream school or job? Good for you. Pat yourself on the back, maybe celebrate, but move on. Regardless of what you do or accomplish, chances are there’s a ton of work ahead.

The point: pride dilutes focus. And no focus likely means no progress.

3. Surround yourself with humility
Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” If you hang out with egomaniacs, you’ll likely become one.

4. Present yourself through logic
Never try to win a debate by presenting yourself with authority — it’s likely to do more harm than good in the long-run. If you’re the chair of a committee, don’t exert position-related control. It’ll make others question your leadership.

If you deeply believe in something, back it up properly. If you can get reliable data, that’s great. If not, try making the right connective explanations to prove a point.

The more often you do this, the more people will want to hear about what you have to say.

5. Don’t talk the talk if you can’t walk the walk
Talk is cheap. Put in the hours and prove that you can actually get things done. Don’t waste your time looking for shortcuts. It’ll probably end up costing you even more time and result in a loss of credibility.

It’s impossible to go for a 10 km run without breaking a sweat. Similarly, you can’t attain goals without working very, very hard.

I have a professor who says, “Show, and don’t tell”. It probably applies to life as much as it does to his class. Instead of wasting your time telling people you can do something, show them.

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