Let me begin by asking you a question. Would you say that you are fascinating or frustrating to others? Perhaps you are someplace in-between? Or, maybe you don’t know. The good news is that the majority of people are on a journey to discovering their self-awareness. Starting with who they are, and then eventually reaching a point when they can appreciate how others perceive them.
Beginning to focus on who you are may seem like an easy task. The challenge is that it is easier to view others and how they come across via their self-awareness than it is our own. Why? Mainly because we don’t have someone video recording our every move, and then sitting down to do a play by play analysis of how we interacted with others. If we did, would this help us? Perhaps to some degree, but developing our self-awareness can take decades to master.
The other factor about our self-awareness is that with more life experience, it can change how we present ourselves to others, and how others perceive us. We might not appreciate the gradual development of our journey, but at some point, we will realize we have made progress.
Are there some people who naturally have more self-awareness than others, and did they have this skill at an early age? Yes, but they are in the minority. One of the factors to those whose awareness level is higher than others early on, is that they embrace early on who they are. For example, perhaps they are a really outgoing person, and yet, they have been told by some people that they are too friendly. Do these people who hear this information dial down their friendly meter? They might, but they will look to monitor this trait as part of their awareness and apply it more appropriately and situationally.
Remaining on the thread of someone who is very friendly and who is aware of the fact they can dial up and down their friendliness level, how do they know which way the dial should be turned? One of the ways they do this is to read the body language of the person or group they are in, and to determine based on the clues that are being given out. Being able to read others body language is a part of how a person can master their self-awareness, but it’s not the only element.
There is also a component that self-aware people have mastered that allows them to more accurately perceive the energy level of people they are engaging with. This is a much more difficult ability to master, and it is even more difficult to explain, as it is a feeling you get, versus something you can see. For instance, consider a time when you came across someone you work with, or are leading, and you sensed they were not having a good day. In this situation, let’s suppose their body language was not giving off any clues about how they were feeling, but you could get a sense by trusting your gut instinct that something was wrong. Perhaps you even felt your own body tighten up and begin to feel the stress they were emanating?
A third element associated with mastering self-awareness is paying attention and actually listening to what the person you are talking to is saying, but more importantly, what they are not telling you. When you engage with someone you know well, and you would normally have a free-flowing conversation with them. Have you ever noticed when in conversation with them, that they are not talking to you the way they customarily do? In this situation, being aware of this can help both you, and them by asking them questions relating to whether there is something they want to talk to you about, but are hesitating to do so.
For people who have not mastered their self-awareness yet, or who are just beginning their journey of doing so, the best thing they can do is to be open to understanding and learning how to master this skill. Although it is ideal to master this skill early on in our lives, the reality is that most people do not do so until their 30’s, and even into their 40’s and 50’s. Yes, this might seem improbable, but I can tell you that from my professional experience, I see this happening on a regular basis.
Is it a bad thing that so many people are lacking in their self-awareness? No, because as long as someone is willing to work on their self-awareness and increasing their level, this is an extremely positive attribute. It is also an indication they will be in a much better place socially, personally and professionally when they do. Especially if they are a parent, leader, mentor or sports coach or someone who is regularly engaging with other people in a teaching manner.
So, are there ways that people can begin mastering their self-awareness? You bet there are, and below are some suggestions to put you or someone you know in the direction of doing so.
- How would you rate your own level of self-awareness on a scale of 1-5, with 5 being the highest level? If you are at a level 3, ideally being at a 4-5 is where you want to be, and you can get there with practice.
- Who would you rate in your professional or personal circles as someone who is at a level 5 for self-awareness?
- Are any of the people you have rated a 5 people you could ask to help you with increasing your own level of self-awareness?
- Can you think of a time recently when you felt your self-awareness level was higher than it typically is? What were the circumstances in this situation which made you feel like you had a higher level? Could you take elements from that situation and apply it to other scenarios to help yourself?
- Have you ever had an opportunity to take an assessment to learn more about yourself? There are many assessments to choose from, and I’m not going to bias you on which one to select, but you can reach out to me if you want my opinion.
- Be honest with yourself. Have you ever considered that you might not be that self-aware? If so, does it matter to you whether you increase your level, or are you satisfied with who you are, and where you are at in your life?
If you are not satisfied with your level of self-awareness, you have taken the first step to improve it by admitting this to yourself. Your investment in your self-awareness journey will be worth every ounce of effort you put into it, and I can assure you of this, as I see what happens on a daily basis to the people who are making this investment in themselves.
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