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Could the ‘nice guys finish last’ myth be hampering your relationship?

There’s a pervasive belief that, if you want to get ahead in life, you have to take what’s yours. After all, we’re told that nice guys finish last.

But none of that could be further from the truth, says Dr Daryl Van Tongeren, who says there’s incredible power in being humble.

“Scientific research has found that people are more likely to want to be friends with, or work with, or be in a romantic relationship with someone who’s humble,” says Dr Daryl Van Tongeren.Credit:Stocksy

The associate professor of psychology at Hope College in Michigan became interested in humility at university while studying the character strengths and virtues that improve relationships.

He realised that humility is an “under-studied and under-appreciated but extremely valuable feature of human life”. And yet there are loads of “cultural myths” surrounding the idea that we need to brag to get ahead.

He understands why some are wary about embracing humility. “They think, ‘Oh, I’ll get exploited, or other people will take advantage of me, or it’ll be a sign that I’m weak.’ ”

But there are numerous benefits to humility, says Van Tongeren, whose new book on the topic is aptly titled Humble. For a start, it improves relationships. “Scientific research has found that people are more likely to want to be friends with, or work with, or be in a romantic relationship with someone who’s humble,” he says.

That humility also means those bonds are more likely to thrive. “When you’re in a relationship with someone who’s humble, you’re more likely to forgive them, you’re more committed to them,” says Van Tongeren.

It can also boost performance at work. “Leaders who are more humble are able to ask more of their team. The team feels more empowered, is more creative, and overall we see higher levels of productivity and satisfaction.”

There can also be a ripple effect on connections in the wider community. Approaching others with a sense of curiosity and willingness to listen, Van Tongeren says, can help bridge common divides, such as differences in religious or political beliefs.

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