4 first steps to develop better self-awareness in business and life
If these times have taught us nothing else, they will have taught us self-awareness—adorning the mask, keeping 6 feet apartfrom others, minding what we touch all day long, remembering to wash our hands. Heightened awareness of the risks in our environment where a harmful virus could be lurking has kept us highly attuned to our environment. Imagine if we could be so cognizant of our emotions, behaviours and reactions to daily situations in our personal or work/business lives?
There are so many reasons to adopt better self-awareness, especially with today’s endless platforms for divisive dialogue,where any opinion or comment can become fodder for argument. Creating inclusive workplaces is a big one. Improving that aspect of our businesses is dependent on respectful and productive conversation and self-awareness.
Sherrie Campbell, Psychologist and author of Loving Yourself: The Mastery of Being Your Own Person, gives tips to leaders for improving self-awareness, including:
Keep an open mind: When we can keep an open mind, we stay open to the possibilities in our world. Campbell says, when we are more attuned to our own emotions, we can better understand others’. “To be a successful leader, you have to be curious about new people and what they have to offer.” However, being open to others, she says, requires that you not have to be number one.
Stay Focused: This might be the hardest thing we do in a day—stay focused on a single task at hand. Those leaders who canactively listen in a conversation without being distracted, or focus in on a task without checking email or phone for a social media update, exhibit self-discipline and stand to gain better self-awareness, as well as the gifts that can bring.
Be more adaptable. Sometimes, oftentimes, when we are flexible, adaptable, we discover opportunity because we leave the road we were so keen to control, and open a path to something that is potentially a better fit for our personal lives or our business.
In her 2016 TEDx Creative Coast talk, Celeste Headlee presents “10 Ways to Have a Better Conversation”.
Practice good conversation skills. This plays a key role in building self-awareness. And this isn’t about the usual list—looking people in the eye, repeating back to them what they just said—It’s much more than that.
Headlee advises while in a conversation:
Don’t multi-task. Yes! Put away your phone, stop looking at that digital, dinging watch on your wrist. Stop it. Pay attention. If you are not in the conversation with both feet, you should not be in it at all.
Don’t pontificate. One of the best pieces of advice Headleegives comes from therapist, M. Scott Peck: “True listening requires a setting aside of oneself.” Stop thinking about the question you want to ask, or the seemingly parallel experience you want to share about yourself. “Don’t equate your experience to theirs,” she says. True self-awareness puts these things aside. And ask open-ended questions: “What was that like for you?”instead of “Were you terrified?”
Headlee also advises: “If you don’t know something, say you don’t know.”
Watch her TEDx Talk here.
Maybe one of the best things about self-awareness is it can be contagious. (Yes, a happy and positive twist on contagion.) How you choose to react to certain issues or situations is observed, noted by the people you work with, or who work for you. If you are a “yeller” on the job site, the aftermath of that will look different from someone who chooses a different approach—say taking a person/employee/colleague aside and showing empathy; asking them what is going on for them.
When we are self-aware, we have a better chance at tapping into our own emotional intelligence. Like yoga or music, self-awareness is an ongoing practice. We can’t adopt our most self-aware selves in a day, or even a year. But when self-awareness is made more accessible, we become better humans with better coping skills, and more fulfilling ways of interacting with the world around us.