Sunday, June 9, 2019

Who are Considered Wise? Traits of People with Wisdom

The image of the wise eccentric old man and the matriarchal elderly woman have reappeared in our collective conscious since the beginning of civilized time. Wisdom is seen as the highest state of understanding the world around us and is a noble pursuit in and of itself. Some have spent an entire lifetime trying to gain knowledge and insight that leads to profound wisdom.

Research on the development of wisdom leads to greater insight into the factors that are seen as "wise". Most of these evaluations are based on how someone thinks and acts. Thought processes often lead to actions. Wise people are insightful in a way that leads to alignment between strategy, thought processes, emotions and action.

Wisdom works best when used in a broad context.  It is possible to have focused wisdom such as what might be found in a business manager that doesn't have life skills. In other words, the business manager can solve business problems with ease but have much more difficulty in other life areas.

Wisdom Requires a Certain Level of Intelligence

Wisdom does require a certain level of "thinking skills" that lead to self-reflection. People who have the intellectual capacity to adjust their thinking styles toward greater accuracy can eventually gain wisdom.  That insight comes from understanding situations accurately and reflecting enough on them to come to solutions that can be used in future situations. It might require a little effort and experience but they can get there.

If you don't have this basic level of intelligence, or don't have the capacity to self-reflect, it is doubtful you will learn much. You will simply move through life not learning from each situation and not growing because of it. Wisdom is a process of self-development and insight of oneself in society.

It Can Be Difficult to Measure Wisdom

Wisdom can be measure but it is a highly complex construct based on a lot of factors that must be observed over time. Standard psychological self-report surveys may not be enough.  People want to look good so they often rank themselves high while those with actual wisdom know their flaws and might rank themselves lower (Gluck, et. al. 2013).

Go to any bar, restaurant or family setting and ask about wisdom. There will be a lot of people who are ready and willing to give advice because they see themselves as wise. The problem is they are not necessarily wise but have experience to share based on their personal perspective. Being wise is something that comes from a place of humbleness.

While wisdom may not have 1-1 relationships with any particular factor it is possible to group wisdom into 5 factors. When a person reaches a certain level of mastery in each of these factors he/she is seen as being wise. That doesn't mean they are perfect. It only means they have created multiple ways of looking at the world to better assess appropriate behaviors and solutions.

5 Factors of Wisdom

.....based in research by Dr. Staudinger from Columbia University (1999):

-Basic Criteria: The scope and depth of facts and information.

-Procedural Knowledge: The ability to put together strategies of decision making that relate to outcomes and performance.

-Metalevel Criteria: Determining how decisions will impact the present and future through the context of one's life.

-Value Relativism: The ability to see people's values as relative and the best way to view people is through their own lens. You recognized just a couple of universal principles most of use agree on.

-Awareness and Management of Uncertainty: The ability to plan for uncertainty, create backup plans, create probabilities.

Wisdom isn't just one way of looking at the world. It is the use of multiple methods of understanding a situation and  selecting the best courses of action. It draws on different vantage points to see the problem from angles others have not thought about. It is a process of solving and resolving problems through insight and knowledge. It takes into consideration ethics, practicality, and outcomes. A wise person is able to see a world much wider and deeper than others.

Gluck, J. et. al. (2013). How to measure wisdom: content, reliability, and validity of five measures. Front Psych, 4 (405).

Staudinger, U. (1999). Older and Wiser? Integrating Results on the Relationship between Age and Wisdom-related Perfo....  International Journal of Behavioral Development, 23 (641).

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