Everyone from psychology blogs to the Harvard Business Review and beyond are covering the topic of self awareness lately, and why shouldn’t they? Having a sense of self awareness can help us become healthier mentally and emotionally and also better communicators about what we want and need. It encompasses your character and helps us be knowledgeable about how we want to be, be seen, and interact with the world.
I see one important fact of life missing from the discussions on self awareness: awareness of others. It isn’t about you, or me, all the time.
There is an altruistic spirit that some have, where these type of people always put others before themselves, and this isn’t what we are missing. While this is admiral behavior, it isn’t always healthy or productive for the person putting others before necessary personal needs.
Maybe the concept of awareness of others transcends self awareness, and we need to master one before the next. The journey certainly doesn’t end at self awareness, and we need to consider that. Inner searching and development of how we treat ourselves builds an important foundation, but it doesn’t encompass the building going on top, the parts that people see and know to come and (hopefully) love.
We should consider awareness of others in a couple ways. Communicating with others is a first example, because the power of communication is not about what is being said. What matters is how we are heard and the message that is heard. How many times have you said something that was misportrayed? Is that actually on the other person, or is that on us? We need to consider our words, our tone, and our style before speaking. It is a lot to think about at first, but like any habit, becomes easier over time.
Another interesting piece is that how we make others feel has a lasting impact on them. Author Maya Angelou is attributed with one of my favorite quotes, and it applies here: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” When we put an emphasis on creating positive experiences and interactions for ourselves and others, it can create positive memories that last a lifetime and even influence other actions and later other people. Think of the possible domino effect!
One other way we should consider awareness of others is to stop taking things personally. It creates a dark cloud over our lives, and can ruin friendships and relationships in many environments. When we have awareness of others, we recognize that yes, it isn’t all about us, and that maybe someone has a lot going on in their lives. This attributes both a problem and blame where there may not be any, and that can be toxic. As much as friends and family who love each other try to offer support, sometimes they need to focus personally, no matter what you did or didn’t do. We all need breaks and the opportunity to take care of our business.
We should certainly continue to strive for self awareness. Self improvement over time helps us be better people and certainly kinder to ourselves and our reality. But since we all live in an interconnected world, developing and practicing an awareness of others can be impactful on both those we relate to and our relationships with them. We can accomplish more if we consider the perspective of others in communication, how we make them feel, and stop taking things personally (and removing blame).
How are you cultivating your self awareness and awareness of others? Do you think you need to master one before the next? Have you experienced the impact of this before, and what was it like?