Accurate self knowledge is the key to successful relationships. Notice the use of accurate? Who you think you are and who others think you are is often very different. The closer our understanding of our own behaviors, attitudes and personal skills is to how others perceive us, the better our chances for success – in anything.
Most people agree with that statement. But most people never seek out anything other than affirmation of who they think they are. There can be no increase in self knowledge with that approach. Some people will tell you they really don’t care what others think. In most cases, that’s not true.
See if any of the following three profiles are familiar to you.
The first person works in real estate sales. She prides herself on being honest and straightforward with her potential clients. She tells it like it is. She feels she may lose some sales with that approach, but people who understand her will be impressed by her integrity and buy from her. She sells, but she loses a lot of sales. To many of the people she does not sell, she comes across as blunt, arrogant, unwilling to listen, and only interested in what she has to say. She was stunned when she found that out. She didn’t accept that feedback. She continues to sell, works very hard, but will never rise above her current level of accomplishment until she accepts that what she sees in herself and what others see is very different, and keeps her from reaching her potential.
The second profile is of a former client who instantly takes charge of any situation he sees as calling for leadership. With imperfect knowledge but with total conviction of the rightness of his ways, he goes about solving the problems of others. He has done this so often with his company’s clients that his sales people dread taking him on a sales call. He sees himself as possessing a caring, kind, sharing, concerned approach that is only meant to help people that are less capable than himself. He’s been fired from top level jobs five times. He is truly a legend in his own mind – and not the least interested in self – knowledge. His termination record speaks for itself.
The third profile is of a client who is a true subject matter expert – someone people should seek out to get information. She takes pride in her knowledge, and is constantly working to expand it. She is quiet, self effacing, and was one of the most judgmental people you could ever meet. She constantly found fault with others who didn’t measure up to her high standards. In fact, she didn’t measure up to her own high standards. She saw herself as open, willing to listen and be helpful to whoever asked. Others saw her as cold, aloof, judgmental and patronizing. When she got feedback on how others saw her, she was first shocked, then chose to seek out information that would validate the feedback, or dismiss it. Now she works hard to be accessible and share without judgment. In fact, she’s made the study of human behavior one of her passions. She’s on the right track.
All three people share one thing – they all can benefit from a strong dose of accurate self – knowledge. Unfortunately, only one is open to gaining it. That’s fairly typical. For the one willing to open herself to input, the rewards can be amazing. For the others, nothing much changes, and neither does their situation. Too bad.
Ann Landers wrote a piece of advice about self-knowledge: ” Know yourself. Don’t accept your dog’s admiration as conclusive evidence that you are wonderful.” It’s funny – but its true. If the only thing we are willing to accept as true is affirmation, we miss opportunities to gain in self-knowledge.
Here are five suggestions to help gain more accurate self – knowledge:
1 – Seek out feedback on situations. and be ready to not be defensive. Ask people you trust questions like ” How could that situation have been dealt with differently?” ” What would you suggest as a different approach?” “How would you have handled it?” The answers will contain clues to how you are perceived. Make sure not to try to defend what you did. That’s a sure way to shut off meaningful feedback.
2 – Identify the “Universe” of people that you work with and /or associate with. They are key to helping gain self-knowledge. Participate in a 360 degree exercise with carefully selected members of your “Universe.” These exercises can be valuable – dependent on the participants, the facilitator, and the situation. Look for a process that is highly developed – and insist on a one on one debrief with a skilled facilitator.
3 – Seek out assessments of Behaviors – what people observe; Attitudes and Values – what drives or creates behaviors; and Personal Skills – what you’re good at and not so good at. The use of a third party allows space to discuss the results and focus on the assessments reports as a means of discussing what might otherwise be hard to deal with issues.
4 – Seek out new experiences and people. Once relationships are established, we tend to flex to meet the needs of where we are. Often, the result is that we adapt and lose sight of who we are – to ourselves and to others. New people, places and experiences provide a chance to try different ways, and gain more self – knowledge
5 – Realize that increased self-knowledge doesn’t mean changing . It may result in a change in who we think we are, and then using that more accurate perception to develop success in ways we never dreamed of.
Accurate self – knowledge is a key to success. Gain as much as you can by being open to inputs that may seem like criticism. The seeds of self – knowledge are more often found there than in affirmation. Start today to learn more about the single most important person in the world to you – yourself.