What do haircuts and self-awareness have in common?
Have you ever tried to give yourself a quality haircut? It’s not an easy task unless you’re simply using electric hair clippers to shave your head. Even then, you can still miss some areas that your friends will be happy to point out to you (after getting a good laugh at your expense).
Cutting your own hair is hard.
Because it’s important to see what you’re doing when you’re cutting hair! Most of us only have two eyes and they’re stuck to the front of our skulls, so if you try to cut your own hair, there will be blindspots you can only see with a complex arrangement of mirrors.
This is why we go to a professional to get a haircut. We know we’re much better off paying someone who will have a comfortable 360-degree view of our heads. They will have a greater awareness of what’s going on and what needs to be done to get the result we want.
When it comes to self-awareness, we are also limited by blindspots. Each one of us grows up with a different life experience. That experience helps shape how we view ourselves and the world around us. But that view is incomplete in the same way your view of your body is incomplete because you can’t see your own head.
What does a blindspot in a person’s self-awareness look like then?
- A woman who claims to be trustworthy but no one wants to do business with her because she lies and steals.
- A man who claims to be patient and understanding yet loses his temper the moment something doesn’t go his way.
- A manager who claims to be a great listener even though he interrupts his employees when they’re talking to him.
Each of the above has a glaring blindspot because in each case the person is claiming to be the opposite of what others perceive them to be. If they are sincere in their claims, what motivation would each of them have to improve behavior they already perceive as great?
Self-awareness is not just about how you view yourself. It is a measure of how aware you are of yourself and the way others perceive you.
“Self-awareness is the will and the skill to see ourselves clearly.” – Dr. Tasha Eurich
But why is it important to see ourselves clearly?
How would you develop and grow as a human if you couldn’t accept your flaws even after they are pointed out to you by different people? How would a person grow intellectually if their values and beliefs were “not allowed” to be challenged because that’s “just who they are”?
If you want to be a successful comedian, you must have enough self-awareness to recognize the joke you’ve told 100 times isn’t that funny if you are the only one who has laughed at it.
If you want to be a successful real estate agent, you must have enough self-awareness to recognize the frustration you cause potential clients when you show up late. No one will want to do business with you if you don’t respect their time.
But how do you go about uncovering your blindspots if you’re not sure what they are?
If you want to start working on your blindspots, one of the more straightforward approaches was discussed in our latest podcast interview with Dr. Tasha Eurich. Start with the people closest to you and ask them:
“I want to be a better friend (or parent, coworker, etc) and I need your help. What is one thing I do that annoys you?”
It can feel like you are putting people on the spot with such a direct question so let them know they can think about it and get back to you. You’ll get a response at some point, and what you do then is the most important step in this process.
“Honestly, I get annoyed whenever I’m telling you a story and you interrupt me multiple times before I can finish.”
You must NOT get defensive.
You asked a question and you received an answer, so thank the person and move forward. If you feel like you can engage in a healthy discussion based on the answer, go for it, but if you feel like you will get defensive or argumentative, leave it at a simple thank you.
Now you have a starting point to work from.
It’s almost impossible to make significant behavioral changes overnight, so the best thing you can do is pay attention to what’s going through your head when the behavior in question arises.
If you find out you have a habit of interrupting your friends in the middle of them telling you a story, start by paying attention to what you’re thinking the next time someone is telling you a story and you feel the urge to interrupt them. Noticing your behavior enough times will lead to you catching yourself and eventually stopping.
You can repeat this process again and again to address blindspots you have in your professional life, family life, love life, so on and so forth. The key to developing your self-awareness is to realize you’ll never be without blindspots, so don’t be afraid to seek feedback in every part of your life.
And don’t forget to tip your barber.