- what choosing the name Luxx for your child might say about your self-perception;
- how you can improve your day by taking five minutes to self-reflect; and
- that a partner who doesn’t respond to your romantic cues now will probably never change.
Insight Key Idea #1: The ability to understand who we are and how others see us is referred to as self-awareness.One of the most remarkable and uniquely human features that set us apart from animals is our self-awareness. More than 150,000 years ago, the Homo sapiens brain developed in a way that enabled our ancestors to begin analyzing their own behavior, emotions, and thoughts. That is when self-awareness was born. Self-awareness is often defined as the ability to examine and get to know yourself and to become aware of how other people see you. There are two different types of self-awareness according to psychologists: internal and external. Internal self-awareness is about analyzing and getting to know yourself, being conscious of your ambitions, of your likes and dislikes, of your impact on other people, and on your place in the environment. External self-awareness focuses on understanding the ways in which other people see you. It is about having the ability to look at yourself from an external standpoint. Surprisingly, according to researchers, internal and external self-awareness don’t have much in common. But research has found a connection between a person’s levels of happiness and whether or not they are self-aware. As a general rule, people who are both internally and externally self-aware are able to make better choices, have healthier personal and professional relationships, are more creative and more successful overall. So what do we need to do in order to become self-aware? First off, in order to become fully self-aware, it is important to know that there are seven different types of insight. The first type of insight has to do with our values. Your values are the principles that guide the way in which you live your life such as humility, honesty, fairness, etc. The second type of insights are your passions, while the third are your aspirations, which will usually enable you to find the things that you love to do and to determine what your life goals are. The fourth insight is Fit and it involves being aware of the surrounding environment and of your own place in the world. Understanding the environment is extremely important as it can enable you to be more engaged, to thrive, and to be happy. Patterns are the fifth insight and they represent your consistent behavior, the things that make up your personality. This type of insight helps you understand how you think and why you act in a certain way. The sixth insight has to do with your reactions, your physical and emotional behaviors exhibited in different circumstances. This type of insight also focuses on your ability to control your actions and feelings in stressful situations. And last but not least, the seventh insight is the impact, which consists of understanding how your actions can affect other people.
Insight Key Idea #2: Your journey to self-awareness can be disrupted by societal and inner roadblocks.Encountering a boss who thinks that he is are a visionary leader while all his employees think that he is an incompetent jerk is a common occurrence. This is mainly owed to the fact that a lot of people are delusional about their own abilities. But why? Tasha Eurich, the book’s author, believes that there are three main roadblocks that prevent self-awareness: knowledge blindness, emotional blindness, and behavior blindness. Knowledge blindness happens when people assess their competencies on general beliefs of how they should perform, instead of how they actually perform. David Dunning, an American psychologist, conducted an experiment to demonstrate this phenomenon. The subjects were asked to take a geography test. The subjects who were under the impression that they were good at geography were convinced that their scores were particularly high, although they were just average. Emotional blindness is being unaware of one’s own feelings. People might think that their actions are rational, based on the existing circumstances, when in fact, they are gut decisions made at that moment. Behavior blindness is not being able to analyze your behavior through the eyes of other people. The author gives a great example of a talk that she once gave. She was convinced that the talk was a disaster, but the audience loved it. She even had a record number of sign-ups to her website’s monthly newsletter after her talk. And these three obstacles are not the only things that can get in the way. Another barrier to self-awareness that can be encountered in our society quite often is the cult of self. Have you ever wondered why so many Americans choose novel names for their babies? Names like Luxx, Izander, or Sharpay? These names indicate that the cult of self is a huge part of our society. People are convinced that they are special and that their children are special as well. We are entering the age of esteem, where everyone thinks that they are unique. But we need to be careful not to fall into this trap because although there is nothing wrong with feeling special, we can’t say the same about feeling superior. If we behave as if we’re better than everyone else, we are extremely likely to become the object of other people’s resentment. Additionally, we might also find coping with our own mistakes and owning up to them increasingly difficult.
Insight Key Idea #3: Introspection can be a sure path to insight only if we do it right.If we spend enough time and effort self-reflecting, we’ll probably come to understand ourselves, right? That is not necessarily true. Yes, analyzing our emotions, thoughts, and habits can help us become more self-aware. But, if we don’t do introspection the right way, the results might be quite the opposite. In fact, researchers have found that many self-analyzers can have high levels of anxiety, more negative relationships, and can even think less of themselves. The problem is that we don’t question the validity of the insights that we gain from self-analysis as much as we should. So, how can we become more self-aware by using introspection? First and foremost, we need to have an open mind and a flexible mindset. If we accept that we might not find a specific answer, we can allow or curious mind to explore different perspectives. Another common mistake that many people make when it comes to introspection is to ask themselves why they are the way they are. When they ask such questions they are, in fact, looking for the causes of their behavior and thought patterns. But, because the human brain is rather lazy, we are often presented with the answer that is the most convenient. As a result, asking what kind of person we are is a much more effective strategy. We should focus on what we think, feel, and do in any given situation? Asking what instead of why is a much more beneficial approach as it helps us recognize our emotions. According to the author, when we name our feelings, especially our negative ones, we have better chances to recognize them. This is a much better option than simply letting them set off a fight-or-flight response. On the other hand, when it comes to analyzing our positive thoughts, we should avoid over-analyzing. By rationalizing our positive experiences we risk-taking all the joy out of them. Lastly, we should always watch out for rumination, introspection’s evil twin. The author defines the cognitive process of rumination as being a sort of fixation on our insecurities, weaknesses, and anxieties. The author warns us that rumination can prevent us from gaining valuable insight and it can even have negative consequences such as depression.
Insight Key Idea #4: There are three different mindfulness techniques that can help us increase our self-awareness.What is the first thing that pops into your mind when you hear the word “meditation”? If you’re anything like the author, the thought of yoga mats, chanting, and incense might be off-putting or intimidating, but there is no reason to be scared of these things, as meditation has helped humans for millennia. Many people are using meditation to increase their self-awareness and only a few of them have made it a grand lifestyle change. The author explains that there are three different techniques that we can use to increase our mindfulness and, respectively, our internal self-awareness. Confusing rumination and introspection can be quite easy, but the truth is, they are quite the opposite. Rather than judging and analyzing our thoughts, mindfulness consists of noticing them without judgment. By applying this strategy, we’ll begin to make new observations about ourselves, and our self-awareness will improve greatly. Additionally, we might even improve our health, our happiness, and our productivity. Reframing is the first mindfulness technique and it consists of looking at the bigger picture of our experiences. For instance, if we lose our job, our first instinct might be to fixate on what we have lost. But, in order to reframe our experience, we need to focus on what we can gain from it. For instance, we might realize that we were professionally stuck and that we are not free to find new and exciting opportunities. Another effective mindfulness technique is called comparing and contrasting. This technique consists of noticing whether or not our feelings, thoughts, and behaviors have changed over time. The author has used this technique herself when two years into her second job she became restless. When she looked back at the way she felt at her previous job, she quickly noticed a pattern. By connecting the dots, she was able to understand that her current job was not the problem. She was actually dealing with an internal pattern. If you want to try this technique yourself, simply ask yourself questions about your relationships and your job and find the differences and the similarities between past and present experiences and situations. The daily check-in is the third mindfulness technique. This technique consists of taking a few minutes every day to think of the things that went well and things that could be improved. What can you learn from your recent experiences and how can you improve your future ones?
Insight Key Idea #5: The path to external self-awareness can be obstructed by two types of roadblocks.If you want to know how other people see you and enrich your external self-awareness, you might think that the easiest way is by asking your family and friends directly. But that can be quite problematic because the people who love you will probably be subjective and even dishonest about how they see you. According to the author, this phenomenon is called the MUM Effect. It means we keep Mum about Undesirable Messages because it is more comfortable to do so. We prefer to be silent than to tell people unpleasant things. We are often inclined to tell white lies rather than hurtful truths and this is one type of roadblock that can prevent external self-awareness.
If you want to become more self-aware and more open towards learning how other people see you, read our article on vulnerability.Another roadblock is represented by our natural reluctance towards asking for feedback. A common thing that we do is make excuses. There are three main types of excuses. One such excuse is convincing ourselves that feedback is not necessary, but that is simply not true. In fact, when it comes to achieving self-awareness, the ways in which other people see us are just as important as how we see ourselves. Another excuse that we often make is that we shouldn’t ask for feedback because that can be seen as an act of weakness. But just think about this for a moment. Would you consider it an act of incompetence or weakness if a person asked you for feedback? Or would you respect the person’s efforts to improve themselves? Research has shown that leaders who ask for feedback more often are more effective. And the final excuse is that we don’t want feedback. We’re afraid of feeling hurt by others’ comments, and for that, we need to have courage. But although overcoming these barriers is not always easy, there are many effective ways to do it. One of them is by asking for 360-degree feedback. As the name suggests, this is a type of feedback that covers all angles. At the workplace, this would consist of asking your managers, your colleagues, and even the board members and your clients to fill out a feedback form. The past thing about this type of feedback is that it is anonymous, making it a much honest option. On the flip side, this might be a good opportunity for people who are resentful towards you to say hurtful things. To avoid this, ask only the people who you think are going to be truthful and fair.
Insight Key Idea #6: In order to gain accurate insight, we need to learn how to react to feedback.So you finally decided to ask people for feedback. Everything goes as planned, except some of them say that you are over-confident. Your natural instinct might be to fight back or to be defensive, but that is not a helpful attitude. So how should you process this not-so-positive feedback? To transform feedback that is not necessarily positive into something useful, you need to learn how to receive, reflect and respond to different types of comments. This strategy is known as the 3R model. Let’s start with the first stage of the process, receiving feedback. In order to become better at receiving feedback, you must first ensure that you’ve understood the people’s message correctly. If you are not sure, it’s perfectly fine to ask for clarification. Ask your colleagues to explain what they meant by “over-confident,” and how they reached this conclusion. Only after you’ve mastered the receiving stage, will you be able to jump to the second one - reflecting. Here are three useful questions that can make the reflection process easier: Is this feedback something that I can relate to? How will this piece of information feedback affect me in the long run? Is it beneficial or not? Should I do something about it? It is also important to consider if and how you should act on the feedback. Maybe it might be helpful to ask feedback from additional people before committing to changing your behavior. Or you could find ways to use your over-confidence to your advantage. There are two other very important points that you need to keep in mind whenever you receive feedback. First, if the feedback that you receive is harsh but confirms something that you already thought of yourself - that you are not a good leader or that you are a poor team player, your first instinct might be to shut down completely. Self-affirmation is a great way to counter this reaction. All you need to do is to remind yourself that you have many positive qualities before you receive any feedback. Avoiding a bad reaction might be as simple as reminding yourself that you are a good friend and a loving parent. Secondly, it is important to come to terms with the fact that although you could make an effort and change your behavior slightly, there are certain things that you simply can’t change. For example, you might be pretty bad at predicting people’s behavior or at meeting new people. If it’s something that you have always worked on but regardless of your efforts, you simply couldn’t improve things, then you should probably accept it. Being open about your weaknesses and accepting them as part of your personality is sometimes the best course of action.
Insight Key Idea #7: Follow the five pillars of insight if you want to build a self-aware team.Self-awareness can exist on a collective level as it isn’t a quality that only an individual can possess. So how can we make sure that we build a team that is self-aware? It is very important for a team to be self-aware and to know how other people see it. To achieve this, a team must focus on five different areas of insight. The author refers to these areas as the Five Cornerstones of Collective Insight. These cornerstones or collective insight are objectives, progress, process, assumptions, and individual contributions. To become self-aware, a team needs to assess its performance in each of these areas regularly. This can be achieved by asking the right questions and analyzing issues from different angles. What type of questions must be asked by a team who wants to gain insight with these five cornerstones? Let’s take objectives for example. A team that is looking to assess its objectives, needs to itself what its key goals are. Is it important to increase sales or is it more important to become more eco-friendly? The most straightforward cornerstone is perhaps assessing progress. When it comes to assessing progress, the team needs to ask questions like “How many new clients have we gained? or “How many units have we sold?”. If a team is looking to evaluate its process, then it needs to focus on the way it’s currently working, and look for aspects that need improvement. Questioning the effectiveness of a marketing strategy or of the structure of the internal meetings might help. As we’ve already discussed, being aware of how others perceive you is important for both individuals and teams. That’s where assumptions come in. Assumptions are the judgments that outsiders make about a brand. A team who is self-aware will usually invest time and effort into understanding what others think about its work and what can be done in order for this image to be improved. Finally, a team can gain valuable insight by evaluating individual contributions. This can be achieved by taking into account which team members are having the most impact.
Insight Key Idea #8: Follow three main guideposts if you want to develop your team’s self-awareness even further.There are three more general concepts to consider if you really want to put in the extra effort when building a self-aware team: role models, psychological safety nets and a culture of evaluation. Any team that wishes to become self-aware needs a role model. The role model should be a person who is a good leader and who is able to communicate effectively. Additionally, he should have healthy principles and act upon them clearly. This behavior is referred to by psychologists as authentic leadership. What they have observed upon analyzing authentic leaders is that they are generally genuine about their performance and open to constructive criticism. Their behavior has a positive influence on the team and enables its members to reflect on the five cornerstones of insight truthfully. As well as effective leadership, a self-aware team requires a psychological safety net. That means creating an environment in which all members of the team feel safe and can ask for help. A supportive atmosphere encourages the team to own up to any failures and raise constructive criticism without fear of negative consequences. Last but not least, it is very important to remember that although following the pillars of insight will enable your team to gain self-awareness, this is not a one-off solution. The process of becoming more self-aware is ongoing and needs to be incorporated into the team’s culture. Take the company Pixar where Ed Catmull, the President of the company, introduced Notes Day - a day of honesty. On this day, all employees are encouraged to think about any problems that they notice inside the company and to discuss them in a safe environment.
Insight Key Idea #9: There are three different types of delusional individuals.If you want to find an example of a deluded person, you probably won’t have to look very far. We’ve all seen the aggressive boss who is angry all the time and who thinks that his approach to leadership is the most effective. We’ve also met partners who are entirely oblivious to relationship signals and cues. The author describes these people as being un-self-aware. The way we interact with a person who is un-self-aware will generally depend on the type of delusion they have. There are three different types of delusional individuals– the Lost Cause, the Aware Don’t Care, and the Nudgeable. The Lost Causes are individuals who hold onto their delusions at all costs. Generally, they don’t accept any other opinions but their own and their beliefs cannot be shaken. As you might have guessed, trying to change these people is futile. The only thing that you can do is to minimize their impact on your own happiness and success. If you realize that they are the source of the problem and not you, you can react to their behavior more appropriately. The individuals who are aware that their behavior has a negative impact on others, but they don’t care are referred to as The Aware Don’t Care. Again, when it comes to interacting with these individuals, the best course of action is to manage your own reactions and to avoid trying to change them. The author has adopted an effective technique to deal with Aware Don’t Care individuals called the laugh track. When her former boss used to treat her badly and make cruel comments, instead of feeling insulted, she would imagine a laugh track in the background. According to her, this made the situation bearable and sometimes even a bit funny. The third type of delusional individuals are the Nudgeables. The good news is that the nudgeables can, at least in a small way, change their ways. These individuals are more open to other people’s opinions than the other two types. The problem with them is that they are unaware that there are better options out there. So, it falls onto us to help the nudgeable un-self-aware individuals by letting them know how others see the world. This enables them and everyone else to become more successful in any type of environment, be it at work or at home.
IN REVIEW: INSIGHT BOOK SUMMARYWhat is the key message of Tasha Eurich’s book Insight? The ability to understand our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings and to be aware of how other people see us is referred to as self-awareness. According to the author, this is an essential skill in our personal and professional lives but one that a lot of us lack. This is due to the different roadblocks that can be both internal and external. The good news? If we become aware of these roadblocks, we can learn how to overcome them. Valuable advice: Become an “Informer” rather than a “Meformer!” We all use social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. According to researchers, there are two different types of people on these platforms: the “Informers” who comprise of just 20 percent of all users, and the “Meformers” who are about 80 percent. “Informers” will post valuable information that isn’t always related to themselves, while the “Meformers” will almost always post information about themselves The problem with being a “Meformer” is that if we focus on posting about ourselves, we become unable to connect with other people. So, if you happen to be part of the 80 percent, try to suppress your vanity a little and post about something else for a change. Try to distance yourself from self-absorption and move towards self-awareness by focusing less on yourself and more on the world around you.
Suggested further reading: We cannot become self-aware unless we accept our vulnerabilities. To learn more about this topic, read this article.