In an earlier post, I talked about Empathy, and how to tell if you are lacking it. The truth is, many people do, and spend all of their lives completely oblivious to the world around them. I absolutely do not believe in the term “ignorance is bliss”. This phrase (in case you were interested) was originally coined by Thomas Gray, who reminisced about old school days in his Ode on a Distant Prospect of Eton College. Hardly relevant to our day to day life… The cure to lack of Empathy is Self Awareness. In fact, if you can improve your self awareness, you can improve the quality of your life dramatically.
What? Just do the one thing and everything will change?
Why have Self Awareness?
The benefits of having self awareness are endless. In an even earlier post, I talk about the moment between stimulus and response. It is only a VERY short moment in time, where we have the choice to respond badly or resourcefully. The more self aware you are, the higher the likelihood of you responding in a way that serves you and others. By being aware of yourself and how your behaviour impacts others gives you the opportunity to adjust your behaviour to get a better outcome. Don’t wait for THAT performance review where your boss reveals the amount of people you have annoyed in various ways.
Self awareness (as defined by Wikipedia) is “the capacity for introspection and the ability to recognize oneself as an individual separate from the environment and other individuals”. Introspection is more challenging than ever to do. In today’s interconnected world, we are more distracted than ever. The amount of noise, both inside and outside our heads, makes it hard to examine our thoughts and feelings.
How to build self awareness
The cool thing is that you probably have a heap of it anyway. Most readers of this blog already do. They are also mostly smart and good looking.. I digress…
Firstly, do you listen to REALLY listen? Or are you thinking about what you are going to say next? For most people, it’s the latter. We are all guilty of this from time to time. The first thing to exercise when building self awareness is your ability to listen with the motivation of seeking to understand FIRST then be understood. And when you are doing this – making eye contact and really acknowledging the person speaking, you will find yourself in a space of true understanding. While in this space, there is more time. There is no need to rush things. Now notice the speaker’s response to you. Be aware of it. Be aware of your own feelings. How is this interaction working for you?
The pause between stimulus and response cannot be over-estimated. By truly listening you can make this space longer, giving your more time to respond rather than react. When working with my clients on public speaking skills, I often emphasise the “power of the pause”. Do not limit this amazing tool to just when you are presenting. Pausing can be powerful in not only getting across your message, but giving the person you are speaking to a chance to respond. There’s nothing worse than a person on a tele-conference dominating the conversation and taking it off-track. Without the benefits of body language, the can go on and on, increasingly frustrating everyone on the call. The person you are speaking with might not even respond by speaking – pausing will give you a chance to read their body language and assess how your message is being received.
Another great way to build your self awareness is to be mindful about everything you do. Everything. And not just the important conversations where you are listening carefully, but all the time. Think of the simple act of brushing your teeth. Or doing the dishes. How many of us are already thinking of the next thing they need to do once this task is done? As Earl Nightingale is famous for saying: ”… The time will pass anyway, we might just as well put that passing time to the best possible use”
So, in the moment, be mindful and know there is nowhere else to be but right here. Right now.
And just know, that by putting one or all of these into practice, you will be more self aware. Notice the positive changes that happen for you!
How has developing your self-awareness helped you? Feel free to share!