Being Humble Makes for Better Relationships — Research
In Western culture, we tend to emphasize and be rewarded for being vocal about our accomplishments and success. We also tend to present our ideal self (guilty!) on social media and social relationships. This may be particularly a problem for young people where the exposure is greatest on YouTube and TikTok.
Is there a downside to this self-promotion and self-focus? Recent research has looked at this question with respect to significant other relationships.
Recent research by Carissa Dwiwardani and colleagues published in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that people are more committed to and satisfied with their romantic relationship when they perceive their partner as being more humble.
The researchers recruited more than 300 participants to fill out several online questionnaires measuring how committed they are to their relationship, how satisfied they are with their relationship, and their partner’s humility.
The researchers reported than more than 50% of the respondents reported how forgiving they are towards their partner and how grateful they are in their relationship overall.
The authors suggested that people who think their partner is more humble are more satisfied with their relationship. They proposed that this was partly the case because people with more humble partners are more committed to their relationship with that person, and more committed partners are also more satisfied partners.
Humble partners may be better able to negotiate conflict, the researchers argued: “Conflicts in intimate relationships [may] tend to find more expeditious resolutions when individuals are able to humbly acknowledge their respective shortcomings, as it allows for relationship repair after offense, deeper understanding, and improved emotional bond,” write the authors. The authors added, “In this way, conflicts serve to bring partners closer together, rather than further apart.”
To unpack humility further, researchers Don E. Davis and colleagues asked participants in their study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology the questionnaire asked about three different elements: how humble other people perceive the partners to be, how much the partners think that they are better than others, and how well they know themselves, including their strengths and weaknesses (called “accurate self-view”). Of these, partners’ accurate self-views seemed to have the strongest link to participants’ relationship commitment and satisfaction.
In other words, if you want to improve your relationship, know thyself. This advice dates back to ancient times, but it is still as relevant as ever.
Other research suggests that more humble people do tend to be rated as more attractive, have better self-control, and experience fewer negative effects from stressful life events — so cultivating your humility is probably still a good idea.
And if the current study’s findings hold up in future research, says lead author Carissa Dwiwardani of Regent University, “This might encourage partners to be less entrenched in defending their point of view during disagreements, more likely to say, ‘Help me learn from you,’ and to experience personal growth together in their relationship.”