Eight Ways to Improve Your Self-Awareness

Self-awareness is the foundational building block of Emotional Intelligence.  The first step in enhancing or building your overall Emotional Intelligence is achieving a healthy level of self-awareness—which is the ability to identify emotions in the self and to perceive the impact you have on others at home, in the workplace, within the local community, and beyond that if you happen to have a wider sphere of influence.  
More specifically, being self-aware means that you can
  • identify your own feelings
  • recognize how people perceive you
  • recognize how you respond to people in a variety of situations
  • identify your intent and attitude as you communicate with others
Following are a few practical suggestions for enhancing your Emotional Intelligence skills in self-awareness.
1.  Take a few minutes to list the feelingsyou had in a single day–or a week, if you have time for that!
The ability to identify how you are feeling is the first step in managing (not “controlling”) your emotions.  It’s not always easy to identify what you are feeling, especially if you experience more than one emotion–anger and love for a wayward teenager for example.  By writing down your feelings, you may see a pattern emerge, and that recognition will help you grow in self-awareness.
2.  At your next meeting (with an individual or with a group), observe the impact that your words, facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language have on others.
Try out your powers of observation!  Take close notice of how the other person’s facial expression and body language change as you are speaking.  Then, at another meeting, try doing one thing differently–perhaps speaking in a softer tone, for example.  Or looking more directly at the person as you speak.  Can you notice any change?
3.  Ask a trusted colleague to be a “shadow coach” to observe you and then give you constructive feedback about your interactions, your facial expressions, and your body language.
Being aware of how you feel and how others perceive you is a foundational aspect of Emotional Intelligence.  Hiring a coach or just asking someone you trust to observe you in meetings, for example, can provide you with new information about how your words, expressions, behaviors, and decisions affect the people you work with every day. 
4.  Participate in a 360-degree feedback survey with your colleagues, boss, and direct reports to compare how you perceive your behavior and actions with how others perceive those same behaviors and actions.
It takes courage to participate in a 360-degree feedback survey, but you will learn a great deal about how others see you–and increase your awareness of self.  Do others feel that you have what it takes to be a leader?  Are you an empathetic listener?  Do you seem indecisive to those around you?  Can people trust you to do what you say you will do?
5.  Before a presentation, video yourself as you practice speaking before a group.
What do your facial expressions, your body language, and your voice say about you when you speak at a meeting, during a discussion, or presenting at a conference?  Be your own helpful observer and critic as you watch a video of your rehearsal.  You will learn some interesting things about yourself and how you come across to others.
6.  After a difficult encounter with an employee, take time to analyze what you are feeling.
Being aware of what you are feeling as you are feeling it is the first step to being able to manage that feeling.  Pay attention to what your body is telling you (upset stomach?  headache?  hands shaking?) as you try to name the feeling.  There are over 3000 words in the English language to describe feelings–but we use so few of them!
7.  Take time to list your values (adventure, connection, peace, financial security?)–whatever matters most to you–for the next “chapter” of your life.
Taking the time to list your values for “the next chapter” (that can be six months, six years, however you define it) can help you gain clarity around what is really important to you.  Any decision you make, whether concerning relationships, business, or what to do in your free time is more likely to be informed by these values if you’ve taken the time to think about them and write them down. 
8.  Take a survey of your strengths and plan to consciously use them more on a daily basis.
There are any number of surveys that you can buy or find on the Internet for free.  Try taking the VIA Survey of Character Strengths at:  www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu  Knowing and using your strengths can be just as important as improving upon those areas where you are weak.
These suggestions are excerpted from our soon-to-be-released online, self-paced course, Emotional Intelligence 101, which provides an introduction to the concepts of Emotional Intelligence, a brief self-assessment, and many practical suggestions for strengthening skills in all dimensions of Emotional Intelligence.  The course uses photos, videos, and fun exercises to engage participants in a dynamic learning environment.   Email me if you want to be contacted when the course if available:  kerr@bainbridge.net