5 Words to Close the Perception – Reality Gap

 In communication, feedback, perspective, Wednesday Wisdom

A quick way to understand how others perceive you – Just ask!

A recent Twitter post by Tasha Eurich, a psychologist, researcher and author:

My research team and I have found that 95% of people think they’re self-aware, but the real number is closer to 10 to 15%. This means that on a good day 80% of us are lying to ourselves about whether we’re lying to ourselves.

These statistics are mind-boggling. But when I reflect on the employee relations issues I’ve addressed over the past twenty years in human resources, there’s no doubt that a lack of self-awareness was a factor in almost every one of those issues.

One example that is etched deep in my mind: a department head repeatedly asked her colleague to stop using sarcasm in department meetings. But the caustic comments continued. The colleague thought others would perceive his use of irony and wit as humorous, even intelligent. It didn’t work; the others found him to be rude and untrustworthy. It impacted the productivity of the team and made the weekly meetings something to dread. When the department head approached her colleague with this feedback, his response was, “I’m sorry you don’t think I’m funny.”

Contrast this statement with a comment a dear friend made about herself at lunch last week as she referred to her outgoing personality and that of her siblings: “a little bit of me goes a long way.” I don’t know that it’s true, but I thought it was an incredibly self-aware observation.

According to Dr. Eurich:

“Self-awareness is the secret ingredient for success in the 21st century. People who understand who they are—and how they’re seen—make smarter choices, build better relationships, enjoy more successful careers, and live better lives. Of course, most people intuitively know this, but getting there can feel easier said than done.”

I assume you want to become more self-aware. What can you do? This exercise I learned several years ago is a simple and (dare I say) fun place to start. The first step is to write down 5 words – adjectives – that you would use to describe yourself. Then, send a message to ten people who know you well and ask them to do the same. Need a script? Try this:

Dear Friend, I’m trying to increase my self-awareness and part of that process is understanding how others perceive me. Please respond with 5 words – adjectives – that you would use to describe me. Thanks!

Last step – compare the lists. Hopefully, you’ll be able to identify a couple of themes in the fifty adjectives you’ll receive back from your friends and family. Did the same adjective(s) appear multiple times? Any consistency in the lists? Any surprises?

What did you find out about yourself?

 

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