Increase Self-Awareness with the Right Question
I used to think that self-awareness is the ability to spend lots of time thinking about myself, psychoanalyze myself, and worry about how I come across to the world. It took years of getting feedback on areas that I didn't know I needed to work on and being challenged about biases and beliefs I didn't know I held that I began to learn what self-awareness really means. In an article in the Harvard Business Review, psychologist Dr. Tasha Eurich provided a compelling summary of her research into what self-awareness is, the benefits of it, and how to improve it as a skill.
Helpful Self Reflection
Dr. Eurich defined self-awareness as both how clearly we view ourselves and how accurate we are about others' views of us. She called these two aspects internal and external self-awareness. One of the key findings from her research is that being introspective does not by itself improve self-awareness. In fact, people who tend to think about themselves a lot are less self-aware and are less happy. She said that the main reason that introspection is not helpful is that people often ask the wrong question of "why?" Asking why is more likely to lead to an emotionally charged conclusion that is inaccurate or an answer that is based on our fears and insecurities.
Asking the Right Questions
Based on her research, Dr. Eurich found that the question "what?" leads to much more insightful, objective, and productive answers that boot self-awareness. For example, recently I was at a social gathering and felt very shy and tongue tied. If I ask myself why I was feeling that way, I come to the conclusion that I don't fit in or people don't like me. Neither of these answers are probably true but my mind reaches for my insecurities. In contrast, if I ask what are the social situations that make me feel more comfortable and relaxed? Or, what can I do to help me feel more social next time? These questions help me think less critically of myself and instead, open me up to think more creatively to solve this problem. I could bring my partner to the next gathering, which will help me feel more relaxed. I can focus on playing with the kids, instead of maintaining small talk with the adults. I can create a mantra to remind myself that the initial get-to-know-you phase is always kind of awkward; if I stay around and show up often enough, I may be able to deepen the relationships. I can also just stop attending those gatherings altogether. So many more possibilities become available when I ask what rather than why. I also learn more about my preferences, values, and goals, as well as be more accurate about how others see me.
Online Therapy in Seattle, WA
Does asking what help you move forward with more openness and non-judgement toward yourself and others? Does asking what help you understand yourself better? With the help of a therapist, you can begin to integrate these questions into your everyday life. Together, you can work on creating a higher sense of awareness and connection with others. Contact us to learn more and schedule a free 15-minute consultation.