Self awareness is the ability to understand how our actions, words, and attitudes impact those around us. This is true in our marriage, relationships, leadership roles and with the colleagues we work with. This is one of the most important elements of EQ (Emotional Intelligence) because where there is low self awareness, relational issues usually ensue while a high level of self awareness usually leads to a higher level of relational health.
How often in a marriage relationship one of the parties says or does something that causes irritation to the other without them being aware of how their behaviors impacted the other. A marriage relationship is a journey toward greater self awareness so that they minimize relational issues between spouses.
For leaders, self awareness is a significant factor in their leadership success. I have on occasion worked with leaders who have a very low level of self-awareness. The result is high turnover of staff, a high level of frustration over the unpredictable actions of the senior leader and the loss of the best staff. Why? Because a lack of self awareness prevented the leader from understanding how their actions or words impact those around them. Don't be one of these leaders!
One of the marks of leaders with low self awareness is that they move through life at a fast pace, making decisions on the fly, changing their mind quickly and all the while thinking they are pretty good leaders. After all they do stuff - a lot of stuff. The problem is that because they don't pay attention to how their action impacts others it creates chaos around them.
Here are some suggestions for raising you level of self awareness.
First, slow down and think carefully about the unintended consequences of your decisions, who they impact and who needs to be consulted. Talking with those affected by your decisions will raise you level of self awareness because you will hear from your relevant staff.
Second, listen more than your talk. Those with low self awareness at less likely to be listeners and more likely to be talkers. The only route to understanding and avoiding unnecessary issues is to learn to listen carefully to those around you. The less we listen the more likely it is that we will create issues.
Third, ask a lot of questions. Want to know what the unintended consequences are or what people are actually thinking? You need to ask questions - lots of them and then listen and dialogue. My observation is that those with low levels of self-awareness don't ask many questions. They just act - to their own detriment.
Four, invite those around you whom you trust to give you feedback on your words, attitudes and actions. This will not happen without an invitation and an openness to hearing what they have to say without defensiveness.
Five, create an open atmosphere on your team where all can speak their minds honestly. I call this robust dialogue where any issue can be put on the table with the exception of a hidden agenda or a personal attack. Anything else is fair game.
The question is often asked as to whether an individual with low self awareness can grow in this area of their EQ. I believe they can, to a certain degree. But I also believe that whether or not they grow in this area, they can manage their issue by practicing the above actions. These practices will help mitigate against creating issues for people around you.