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Is Humbleness Sabotaging Your Advancement?

Women do this all the time. We try so hard not to be arrogant, that we self-sabotage by taking humility to the extreme. The consequence is that those who witness your exaggerated humility subconsciously write-off your abilities.

by Deedra Abboud in Social Views, Solutions
April 6, 2016 0 comments

One thing that holds us back is fearing our weaknesses more than having confidence in our strengths. – Marcus Buckingham and Donald O. Clifton, Now, Discover Your Strengths.

A few of years ago while at a Bar Conference, I attended a Continuing Legal Education (CLE) course on using Social Media for marketing legal services. There were two presenters, one male and one female, both lawyers. I have no memory of what the male presenter said. However, the female presenter was excellent.

She seemed confident and authentic as she spoke about how she is a runner and often posts about her experience on local trails on Facebook and Twitter as a means to socially engage her clients and keep her at the top of their mind as a legal resource. It was an engaging presentation with lots of examples of how she did it and how positively it had affected the number of referrals she received from her clients.

At the end of her presentation, she provided her full contact information and offered to connect with members of the audience to exchange ideas or even just have coffee. Then she left the podium and joined the other presenter at the presenter’s table while the moderator made closing remarks.

I wrote down her contact information and was excited because I wanted to connect with her. She seemed like jus the type of woman and lawyer I wanted within my circle of friends.

As I watched her return to the presenter’s table, I saw her lean over to the other presenter and say,”Did I do okay?”

I was instantly crushed.

Many people believe that humility is the opposite of pride, when, in fact, it is a point of equilibrium. The opposite of pride is actually lack of self-esteem. A humble person is totally different from a person who cannot recognize and appreciate himself as part of this world’s marvels. – Rabino Nilton Bonder, author

Women do this all the time. We try so hard not to be arrogant, that we self-sabotage by taking humility to the extreme. The consequence is that those who witness your exaggerated humility subconsciously write-off your abilities.

– Then you wonder why your suggestions in meetings are not heard, but someone else repeats the same suggestion after you and everyone jumps on board.

– Then you wonder why you are not top-of-mind for managers and co-workers when a new project or position becomes available for which you would be perfect.

– Then you wonder why co-workers fail to remember you when they are arranging to attend networking or skills-training events.

– Then you wonder why your abilities and contributions always seem to be taken for granted rather than celebrated or rewarded.

Why would they remember your value when you are constantly reminding them that you don’t think you have any?

Leaders are neither arrogant nor overly humble. Like everything in life, there is a balance.

I have no doubt her humbleness was sincere, but the where, when, and how was humbleness taken to the extreme rather than displaying diligent humility. It completely wrecked her credibility with everyone who saw or heard her comment. If she practices humbleness to the extreme in her everyday life, she no doubt experiences negative consequences – from potential clients choosing other “more confident” attorneys to colleagues not remembering her for opportunities.

Humility is to make the right estimate of oneself. – Charles H. Spurgeon, 19th century Baptist preacher

As a solutions-oriented leader, if the attorney wanted honest feedback, she should have privately asked someone in the audience she knew or respected – later. If she sincerely wanted to self-analyze, she could have audio taped it herself and listened to her presentation later, or asked for a copy of the session if it was videotaped.

Asking the other presenter, a man she did not know until that day, immediately following her presentation and within earshot of the entire audience, did more damage to her credibility than a bad presentation could ever have done.

Exaggerated humility may get everyone to “like” you, because you will never be a threat to their own advancement, but it will also make sure you never get where you want to go.
Have you been self-sabatoging yourself by taking humbleness to the extreme?

Have you seen it in others? Did it affect your perception of that person’s abilities?

Have you experienced any of the effects of displaying exaggerated humility (feel invisible)?

Do you see how exaggerated humbleness undermines credibility?

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