“Big egos have little ears.” Robert Schuller
Family members strung out particularly around the West Coast, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado connect with us via Zoom calls each Wednesday and Sunday to share virtual cocktail hour. We share what we see in our parts of the country, tell a few jokes, and assure each other that we are doing our best to live the good life.
It is great fun to see these relatives we love. And, though we are alike in many ways, we are also different in some ways particularly related to politics.
After one recent call, I reflected on how much I wanted to share some of my different perspectives. I hogged the microphone. My ego seemed big and…loud. I felt out of whack in my “innards.”
Do not get me wrong. That part of us which asserts itself; authentically voices its thoughts, emotions, and needs; and takes care of itself is all fine and good. We might say that we have a healthy ego; we are confident and have a good sense of self-worth.
A loud ego is different. A loud ego is one that jumps up when it feels threatened and hotly defends itself. A loud ego has what Dr. Scott Barry Kaufman calls “an incessant need to see itself in a positive light.” A loud ego cannot hear what others are trying to say. A loud ego gets in the way of wisdom, responsibility, good relationships, of growth and development, and of being able to live the good life.
During tough times such as many are experiencing right now, psychologists like Kaufman recommend dialing the ego down…not muting it, but quieting it for our own and others’ benefit.
But what exactly comprises a “quiet ego”? Can we learn to quiet our egos? How would life be better for us if we did? According to researchers who have developed a Quiet Ego Scale, it includes four components.
The first facet of the quiet ego is called “detached awareness” which sounds like something new age gurus like Deepok Chopra or Eckhardt Tolle or would come up with …and it is. A way I would describe it is just paying attention to our thoughts, emotions – what’s happening inside of us as well as what’s happening outside of us without getting stuck or demanding that life offer us something else other than what is going on. Some might call it mindfulness. You would answer yes to a question like this: Do you often pay attention when you are doing things? Doing so, turns out to make our lives much more pleasurable, peaceful, and meaningful.
The second aspect of quiet ego according to researchers also sounds a bit gooey to some – “inclusive identity,” but it is cool. It is a sense of our interconnectedness, our common humanity. You’d say, “Yes that sounds a lot like me” to this sort of statement: “I feel a connection to living things, to other races, even to strangers.” It allows us to experience wise and healthy compassion and self-compassion which leads to a less stressful, rich life. Recognizing our interconnectedness is something that most ancient wisdom traditions have urged us toward for hundreds of years.
The other two aspects of quiet ego are less strange sounding: perspective-taking and growth-mindedness. Trying to understand others’ viewpoints also increases empathy and compassion and strengthens relationships. Growth-mindedness has been made famous by Dr. Carol Dweck and is now used by many schools and even teams like the Seahawks.
You would agree with this sort of statement for perspective-taking: “I try to look at everybody’s side of a disagreement before I make a decision.” And this one for growth-mindedness: “For me, life has been a continuous process of learning, changing, and growth.”
Now the best news. Researchers say we absolutely can learn to quieten our egos by working with these aspects of ourselves, call them whatever you want, but pay attention to what we’re doing, sense our common humanity, find out others’ views, and continue to grow.
If I had to sum the whole thing up, I would say quiet ego is about learning specific practices to transcend the self …which is the most powerful and direct pathway to contentment and inner peace. The volume of the ego is turned down so that we can listen to others and approach them more wisely and compassionately without losing a sense of our own values and needs.
I am “in” for learning more about how to develop a quieter ego. I am thinking my relatives will be glad to hear about my decision too.
If you, like me, want to reap the benefits of quiet ego - inner peace, contentment, and want to tone yourself down so you can listen and understand others, it’s not too late. We can look forward to a fall full of opportunity. Take those Zoom calls for instance. That is where I will be starting…
How might we Journey to The Good Life by learning how to quieten our egos?