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  • Writer's pictureHouria Bellatif

Blind spots are surface signals for deeper awareness

How well do we know ourselves?

According to research data published by Tasha Eurich (author of the book Insights), about 95 percent of people believe they are self-aware. Impressive, right? It would be if the findings stopped there.

After numerous studies, that same research revealed that the actual number of self-aware individuals fluctuates only between 12 to 15 percent. The author further explains these findings to mean that “on a good day, about 80 percent of people are lying about themselves to themselves.” We often distort how we view “us” unconsciously because it is difficult to see ourselves objectively.

Emotional awareness has always been relevant to personal development; It has become an essential variable in the success of growth for an individual on the personal and professional levels. When we increase our self-awareness, we become more aligned with our thoughts and emotions, positively impacting our relationships at home and work.

Here is where the disconnect happens and why self-awareness can be somewhat puzzling. We tend to reflect on situations based on our intention, whereas the people involved react based on the impact of our actions; this results in a contrast between how we see ourselves and how others perceive us.

Have you ever wondered upon receiving input (directly or via some kind of assessment): “Hmmm, curious why the feedback I get from people does not show how empathetic I am? I always listen to them.” Or maybe you were positively surprised by some responses, “I did not think I take risks in my decisions, yet most team members believe I do? “. 

Practitioners refer to these examples as blind spots. And blind spots, we all have some. We have personal traits we exhibit without being aware of them, and it is imperative to become acquainted with them to start connecting with others more effectively. One way to start that path is by asking why?

I will be vulnerable here and share something about myself.

I have always done most things independently for as long as I can remember; I generally prefer completing tasks by myself. One day, I decided to take inventory of how that impacts the people in my immediate circle and myself. I paused and asked myself, “why?”

Why do I lean towards self-reliance? Why do I, at times, refuse the help offered by others? Why do I deplete all solo possibilities even through hardship?

I started to take note of patterns in my professional and personal environments. I reached out to people close to me for feedback only to confirm my emerging awareness: I am very uncomfortable asking for help. I initially saw that as a sign of weakness, possible loss of control until I started changing the narrative: It takes more courage to ask for help, and I still retain control of what I ask for and the support I receive.

The actions we exhibit in front of others are only the tip of our human iceberg. Those can sometimes be or become blind spots, and until we do some inner investigative work, we will not reach that awareness. Below are some examples of potential blind spots paired with awareness areas for exploration.

Such awareness can profoundly impact our daily lives, from the depth of conversations we hold with our partners, family members, friends, colleagues to positive engagement at work, the attitude we carry around, the presence we portray within our respective teams. There is a strong positive correlation between the self-awareness of a given leader and the impact on the organization. An increase in a leader’s self-awareness is reflected in the effectiveness of the workplace; the quality of relationships at work and the observed stress seems to be better managed.

According to published research from Barrett Values Centre, the most common areas where leaders seem to have blind spots are people skills and time management capabilities. In the same study, in 96% of the observed data, executives seem to be perceived as impractical leaders and do not offer appropriate clarity of the vision and objectives. We can all see that not being aware of how we or our actions are perceived can lead to ineffective dynamics, objective misalignment, lack of trust, and disengaged organizations, to name only a few.

Whether you decide to heighten your awareness to be a better dad, mom, partner, sibling, friend, colleague or leader, here are some strategies to boost emotional awareness:

Explore past themes and patterns. Observing recurrent behaviors and allowing ourselves to be vulnerable opens the communication channels and helps build trust.

Who are we around when we are learning? We want to surround ourselves with diverse people to gain various perspectives. We should invite individuals we value and whom we are willing to learn from to our inner circle.

Consider an assessment. We can gain great insight from instruments that highlight traits and behaviors that increase our self-awareness and understand our leadership styles.

Examine the flipside of our strengths. Sometimes, our most significant assets can become a downside, and if not tamed, they can negatively impact our goals. For example, when making decisions, I may consider myself someone cautious. If I take that to the extreme, it could be perceived as risk avoidance in an organizational setting.

Have a warning system. Be it a trusted partner, colleague, or friend; we need to seek feedback and be very specific. i.e., “If you were to identify one blind spot that you frequently notice about me, what would that be? would you let me know when you observe it next time?

The pointers above will not eliminate our blind spots; they will help us highlight them, acknowledge them and work to reduce them significantly. Doing so will improve our performance and elevate our relationships at home and work.

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