Most people would agree that self-awareness is key to change, but for many of us, it is elusive. We know we aren’t getting the results we intend to get, or we may not know until others tell us their perceptions. Often a gap exists until we learn to self-assess.
Examples in business include being told you are too aggressive, demanding, or hard to work with, or the opposite: too timid, too reserved, or too passive. You might also be told you don’t get to the point or you give too much detail or that don’t give enough detail and jump from one topic to another. Regardless of the advice we get, if we don’t have self-awareness, we won’t be able to apply it in a meaningful way that will help us improve continually.
Here are some steps to improving yourself awareness and ability to create change that matters:
- Know what it looks like. If you get feedback that you are too aggressive, for example, ask for some concrete examples so you can visualize what behaviors others are pinpointing. Did you raise you voice and someone felt threatened and reported you? Did others complain that you are hard to work with to your boss? Did you get physical with someone? Did you use offensive language? Often people are reluctant to tell you exactly what they heard for a number of reasons: they may not want to offend you; the person telling you might not feel the same way the recipient of your behavior did, but nonetheless, needs to pass the info along to you; they may not want to start an altercation with you. For whatever reason, if you can ask the person to share the details, you will gain more than if you don’t get those details.
- Know what it feels like. First, ask yourself what it feels like for the recipient who is complaining about your behavior or asking you to behave differently? What did s/he experience? For example, if your boss tells you to speak up more, s/he may be feeling frustrated that time has to spent explaining your actions to others or s/he may be concerned that you won’t be strong enough to do other parts of your job. Second, ask yourself how it feels to you? When you were engaging in this behavior, did you feel “safe” and maybe that’s why you didn’t take a risk by speaking up? Did you realize when you yelled at the other employee that s/he felt scared or were you perhaps only aware that someone wasn’t doing a good job and it upset you? Tying together your feelings/perceptions with others’ impressions is a step towards greater awareness and a deeper understanding of the consequences of your actions. This alone can lead to change.
- Know the process. There is in most cases a prescribed way to get results. You can start by Googling your question to get suggestions on how to deal with most issues, including anger management, imposter syndrome, fear of failure, dealing with grief, how to be more assertive, and much more. Once you have sufficient awareness to know what you want to change, inform yourself of the typical processes a person goes through to create change. It may not be evident to you, especially if you don’t handle something in a way others are comfortable with. It’s ok to seek help, and knowing what you should be doing in detail can help you to change.
- Know yourself. Not everyone responds to things in the same ways. Just knowing the process may not be enough for you. You may respond better to Coaching or taking a group class. You may need to read about it or take time to think about the situation on your own. You may need to talk to a friend about it. Honor your own process by knowing what works for you.
- Know you can do it. Even if it requires work and change, you can do it by being aware of the successes you have had in life and what it took to get there. You can recreate success by believing in yourself and your ability to learn new behaviors and use them.
Developing awareness is a process that you can learn to engage with to gain powerful insights over your life. Start today!