There are few things more important than our ability to be aware of who we are – internally, and who we are in the world – how others see us. This ability allows us to navigate the world around us more successfully, particularly if we can pay attention to the cues and clues we are receiving.
That is why the foundation for our Emotional Intelligence starts with how we see ourselves (self-perception). This perception ‘informs’ how we express ourselves in the world (how others see us). The more we understand about ourselves, the better the chances are that we will be informed about how we are expressing ourselves in the world.
That is the tricky part. It can be a complex series of events and decisions that determine how we see ourselves. How much ‘raw’ information will we process, and after we have processed it, what do we do with it? What are the things that determine how extroverted (assertive) we are? What determines whether we relate better to people or to tasks and information? Where did our ‘natural’ tendencies come from – nature or nurture? More importantly, what were the situations or events in our lives that were significant and what did they teach us? What changes did we make, or not make, as a result?
Many years ago I had a family member who was really struggling. As I listened I could tell that there were a number of issues that were unresolved, and there was a tendency to blame others for their plight. Having been through a period of counseling myself, I asked the family member why they didn’t seek counseling? Their response, “Because I’m afraid I will see myself as others see me, and I won’t like me.” I was saddened by the response. I knew in that moment that unless something changed, that family member had decided to shut themselves off from information that could be helpful. They had stopped growing.
I’ve written that our Emotional Intelligence is a large determinant in our ability to be successful in our relationships, in our work, and in our lives. I believe the foundation of that is about our awareness, and the choices we make as to how we want to shape our lives.
When I think of some of the tougher things I have to do in working with others who report to me, it is to present information in a way that helps them connect with their own version of how they are doing, and amend it with the new information. The most difficult conversations are those where there is a significant gap between what I see and what the other person sees. I believe this also occurs in relationships. Our awareness of who we are and how we are behaving is ‘informing’ our reality.
This is why providing real examples, along with our judgment, or meaning of those examples, is critical in helping the person modify their ‘version’ of the experience. This level of ‘granularity’ of information often requires a lot of effort to consistently make note of and provide feedback around the critical information. The ‘companion’ piece to this information is to also share a picture of what the path going forward needs to look like. This is the time for directness, and clarity. Most often, the shorter the message when you are trying to help another initiate change, the better. Likewise, using self-evaluative questions (my last post on the Power of the Question (8/15/16), talks about this) can be instrumental in helping the individual ‘discover’ a better path. Awareness is about clarity. Clarity, in these situations, is about the willingness to be open, to ask questions about what you are hearing, and being willing to adjust your ‘version’ to achieve greater success – at work, or in your relationships.
The ‘evolution’ of Jim, to this point, involved countless moments of listening, taking in, processing, modifying, and differentiating. The differentiating involved those things/situations that threatened my core values, where change was not negotiable, from those situations where change would be beneficial and help me get more of what I wanted.
I believe that the nature of increasing our awareness is incremental. By that I mean that we have a capacity for what we can take in, process, and act on. The timeframe for this can be days, months, or even years. When we reach that capacity we will plateau for a time until another ‘catalyst’ comes along that motivates some additional change. A person’s lifetime capacity is proportional to their desire to continue to learn, to continue to improve who they are becoming, and what they perceive to be the gap. When there is little or no distance between where we are, and where we want to go, then there is no motivation to do anything different than what we are doing.
How self-aware are you? Is what you are doing getting you what you want? Is what you want today going to help you get what you want tomorrow, next month, or next year and beyond?
To a better you…