‘Self-awareness’ is the ability to see ourselves clearly, to understand who we are, how others see us, and how we fit into the world. It’s the conscious knowledge of one’s own personality, character, feelings, and individuality.
Did you know that genuine self-awareness is the greatest gift you can give yourself, your business, and the people in your life?
Here’s why. People with a high level of self-awareness have been shown to be:
- More fulfilled.
- More creative
- More competent.
- Better communicators.
- More promotable.
- More effective leaders with more profitable companies.
- More powerful and better negotiators.
- Happier and more successful.
- Perform better at work.
- Have stronger relationships.
- Less likely to lie, steal, and cheat. (Tasha Eurich, TEDx, 2018)
Those are pretty compelling reasons to become more self-aware don’t you think?
Self-awareness researcher and expert Dr Tasha Eurich calls self-awareness a ‘meta-skill’ because:
“Self-awareness is the underlying foundation to all of the skills that are required to succeed in the 21st century. It affects your emotional intelligence, influence, persuasion, sales. If you are not self-aware, if you do not understand who you are, how others see you, and the role you play in the world, you are going to come up short.”
According to Dr. Eurich’s extensive research on self-awareness of thousands of people over several years, there are two types of people:
- Those who think they’re self-aware (95% of all people).
- Those who actually are (10-15% of all people).
That’s a staggering statistic!
Around 85-90% of us are either lying to ourselves, in denial or just not seeing ourselves clearly.
This is why ‘360-degree reviews’ – surveys that allow your managers and colleagues to provide feedback on how you behave in the workplace – can be shocking for many people. Because often, it’s the first time they realize that others do not view them in the same way that they view themselves.
Can you picture someone you know who might be lacking self-awareness? Perhaps they’re easily triggered and prickly, or over-controlling of situations and people, or simply difficult to relate to or to work with. Perhaps they don’t seem very happy.
Now try to picture someone who seems self-aware. Perhaps they’re easy to get along with, accommodating, understanding, consistently positive and able to apologize when they’re at fault. Isn’t it so much easier to work with someone who’s self-aware? Deep self-awareness makes us more rational, more open, more intelligent, and more thoughtful.
According to Ray Van Gilst, the key qualities of someone who is self-aware in the workplace are:
- They understand their emotional impact on others (they have high Emotional Intelligence)
- They recognize their weaknesses and aren’t afraid to admit them or get support for them.
- They lead with their strengths.
- They know their limits.
- They’re able to anticipate reactions and respond effectively.
But if it turns out you’re one of the 85-90% of people who aren’t self-aware, all is not lost. Self-awareness is a skill that can be learned. If you want to grow your own and/or your team’s self-awareness, you can. You just need to know how.
3 Ways You Can Become More Self-Aware
1. Take at Least 3 Different Personality Tests
Personality tests work by asking you questions about yourself, and then they use your answers to tell you about yourself. Realizing where you fit into the broad spectrum of human behavior can be very enlightening. Knowing yourself intimately gives you more authentic power.
No matter how hard you try, you can’t excavate your subconscious thoughts, beliefs, and feelings on your own. And because so much is hidden from your conscious awareness, you end up inventing answers that feel true, but are often very wrong. Personality tests act like a mirror, reflecting your subconscious world back to you, and bringing it into your conscious awareness so that you can work with it.
There are many personality tests available online, many of them with a free version that allows you to do your basic typing. In my experience, the most helpful tests are The Enneagram, The Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator, and the DISC Model of Human Behavior. You can learn all about these tests and find the links to the best free versions online in my free E-Book The Happiness Key: Three Free Personality Tests that Demystify Your Unique Path to Happiness.
2. Request Feedback from Friends and Colleagues
This is critical. You can’t become more self-aware by yourself. You need feedback from other people to help you see the things you can’t see about yourself; your ‘blind spots’. They’re called blind spots for a reason – you can’t see them.
Requesting feedback can be a big, scary step. You might not want to hear how you’re perceived by others, in both positive and negative ways. But this is why 360-degree reviews are so powerful in the workplace; they make people aware of their patterns so they can adapt them and become more effective, relatable, and competent.
If you’re ready to be brave and take the step of requesting feedback, Dr. Eurich recommends these criteria:
- Ask the right people. Don’t ask your ‘unloving critics’, or people who are ‘loving but uncritical’ (those for whom you can do nothing wrong.) You need to find ‘loving critics’; the people who have your best interests at heart and are not afraid of telling you the truth you need to hear.
- Ask specifically what kind of feedback you want. Which kind of behaviors do you want to know more about and in which area? Give them something tangible to answer rather than a vague question like “What am I like?”
- Use the right process and give them context. For example, you could say “I received some 360-degree feedback from my colleagues and I really want to understand it better. Could you give me some honest feedback on the following areas?”
3. Change the word “Why?” to “What”
After researching thousands of people and finding the 10-15% of people who actually are self-aware, Dr. Tasha Eurich noticed a very striking pattern. People who were not self-aware were tended to always ask the question “Why?”. For example, “Why me?” or “Why does she behave that way towards me?” or “Why does that person always behave like that?” Their attention is on the other person and their perceived faults.
Instead, the people who were self-aware looked at themselves and asked how they could adapt in order to improve a situation. For example, “They are really adamant that their way is the only way. I wonder what I can do to help them see other options.”
This finding was so striking that Dr. Eurich did a whole TED talk on the topic: Increase Your Self-Awareness With One Simple Fix.
Armed with these three strategies, you’ll have a much better chance at becoming more self-aware. What is it costing you to remain in the 85-90% of people who are not actually self-aware? Greater levels of fulfillment? More happiness and success? I urge you to try these three steps. They won’t be easy, but they will help you beyond measure. Give yourself the gift of greater self-awareness and watch your life and business soar.
In service to helping you live your brightest life,
Kate De Jong, Ph.D
Global Career Coach for Thriving Professionals
Inspired Careers International