Self-Awareness: The Art of Knowing Yourself


Understanding Self-Awareness

Socrates, one of the greatest Greek philosophers and thinkers of all time, famously stated, “Know thyself. The key to gaining knowledge, about anything, is a commitment to learning. To know ourselves, we must gain insight with regard to our individual uniqueness – personality and temperament as well as values and beliefs. Effectively developing emotional intelligence requires gaining a realistic sense of ourselves, both the good and the not so good. Psychologically safe environments encourage the kind of self-development and open feedback that leads to productive self-awareness.

Consider these three development techniques to help build emotional intelligence through self-awareness:

  1. Identify times of regretful behavior.

This may, at first, feel awkward. What benefits come from rehashing past regret? Nonetheless, examining regretful behavior is for the sake of improvement.  When a conversation with someone else is less than desirable because of the way we conduct ourselves, we have choices. We can push the conversation aside and make excuses for ourselves.  This only causes repetition of the same poor communication.  Likewise, we may allow guilt to impede an honest look at how we can change.

The answer lies in the middle. We can seek resolution with the one we have wronged, making a conscious effort to understand what triggered the inappropriate response. Then we make the choice to respond, rather than react, more appropriately in the future. A confident, self-aware person learns from mistakes without letting denial or guilt cripple growth. In doing so, we reinforce psychological safety.

  1. Avoid excusing behavior.

To mature in self-awareness, we must avoid making excuses for behavior – or throwing someone else under the bus – when confronted. While the desire to maintain high esteem is honorable, defensiveness undermines any attempt to accomplish this. In fact, it does the opposite. Rarely are our excuses as brilliant once they leave our mouths as they sound in our minds before we speak them. Instead, we can make a conscious habit of taking responsibility (acknowledging and readily apologizing), then learning from what we did wrong instead of getting defensive and/or scrambling for ways to shift the blame.

This does not mean taking the blame for the wrong doing of others. Taking responsibility for what we, ourselves, have done with honest, confident openness then moving towards resolution, ultimately commands respect and builds workplace environments that support psychological safety.

  1. Pay attention to the way people respond and invite honest feedback.

Finally, increasing self-awareness as well as emotional intelligence has much to do with learning to notice how people respond to us. The manner by which others respond is very telling. This is especially true when we pay attention to what they say and what they withhold. Conversely, when unsure about a colleague’s perception, ask. It shows great perceptiveness as well as respect to ask others how they perceive us, especially when they feel free to give an honest response. We learn best when we listen well. Purposeful listening yields knowledge and allows us to gather our thoughts before responding. When we listen with intention, we become better able to lead our emotions as opposed to letting our emotions lead us.

More on Self-Awareness

These are just three of the many tips for developing greater self-awareness, increasing emotional intelligence, and promoting psychological safety in all circles of influence.

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