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“Simply making myself aware of others has remarkably improved my social life. People accept me much faster now that I ignore them less.” ~John Elder Robison 

The lack of other-awareness causes accidents both physical and emotional, and in some cases, financially.

Our electronically connected world promotes it: we’re too busy looking at our phones to pay attention to the people around us.

We step right into traffic, or light poles or other people.

Or we are privy to someone else’s phone conversation in a public place, learning more about them than we care to know, their voice an intrusion in our day. (I am loathe to admit it, but I think about some of those loud-mouthed, unaware folks the same way I do about certain outfits I see on people who really shouldn’t be wearing them: “How can they be so blind?”)

People are blind to their behavior and its impact on those around them for three reasons:

1)  No one has brought it to their attention

2)  No one has brought it to their attention in a way that has allowed them to really hear the input. In other words, they didn’t connect with the information and so the behavior didn’t change.

3) They are emotionally stunted, or they own the place, or they are simply ass-holes. Not much you can do about that except find a new job.

I see and hear this often in my coaching practice, people who have been told in performance reviews that a certain behavior / attitude offers an “opportunity for growth.”

Management thinks that by naming what they see as a problem, they have communicated the issue clearly, and the person receiving the feedback now understands it. That person might ask some clarifying questions, but at some point they generally assure their employer or their manager that they will work on the issue and get it right next time.

The problem is they’re not really clear on the problem; it was communicated in such a way that the message did not get through; it was not heard.

An astute leader, one versed in body language and facial expressions, an emotionally intelligent leader high in ‘other-awareness’, might ask her direct report to restate what he’s heard, and encourage him to ask clarifying questions in order to insure understanding has taken place. That’s the way of effective, productive collaboration.

One quick clarification: do not confuse other awareness with other dependence.

This isn’t about pleasing others, though that may happen. It’s about pleasing you, connecting with your self and more fully understanding your impact on those around you. This is about connection, being able to connect with others effortlessly, honestly and openly in order to build more trusting relationships.

Next week: Two ways to improve your “other awareness”:




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