Understanding Yourself and Others
Self-awareness is undoubtedly key to being more effective in interactions with other people and underpins interpersonal skills. Emotional intelligence is seen as having more importance than cognitive skills or ability in managing and leading others. Judith Nicol and Paul Sparrow from Lancaster University urged caution, though, in their report “Powerful leadership: the importance of self awareness in extending range”
“Senior leaders think about emotional intelligence as it applies to them as leaders in transactional terms, as a tool to call upon in certain situations. It is a compartmentalized concept rather than the driver of their emotional, thinking and behavioural responses”
It’s important to note that Emotional Intelligence is not a technique to be employed when the situation seems to require it, it is a set of skills or competencies which can be developed through coaching, feedback and disclosure as part of a personal and professional development programme. We recognise, in ClearWorth, that leaders, managers, influencers, negotiators and others who recognise the value of enhanced interpersonal skills should have more than the average amount of self-awareness. Difficult to measure of course, but being willing to explore, investigate and accept descriptions and feedback on personal style, behaviours and values in action are good indicators as to whether someone is willing to expand their self-awareness or not.
We use a range of tools or instruments to help people on this voyage of discovery. We think of many of them as heuristic models – designed to increase and encourage learning and exploration rather than providing incontrovertible evidence or scientific fact about the complex topic of personality and interpersonal psychology.
We are qualified to administer The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI), Total Strengths Deployment Inventory (SDI), Everything DiSC (Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Conscientiousness)f rom Wiley, FiroB (Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation Behaviour) and several more.
These powerful tools can all provide deep insights into what goes on for people at the conscious and unconscious levels which have an effect on their behaviour, the things they say or do.
They do not, however, create self-awareness in themselves. They are measures using specific dimensions developed through research, observations and the application of psychological theories. They are only models – and models by their very nature are imperfect. They are not the real thing; they are a representation of the real thing.
There is, in our view, a prerequisite which is the motivation or interest to explore and understand more about how you work and the willingness to learn and develop based on the information provided.
In the field of human relations and interpersonal skills there are few, if any, authoritative answers that can be assumed to be universal in how to work with other people, how to motivate them, lead them, engage them, influence them and get their buy-in.
Any of the previously mentioned tools should, in our view, raise questions to be considered rather than provide an answer book or checklist approach to how to be more effective. The fundamental questions should start with, “How do I…?”.
Of course, the focus is on self in self-awareness. But self-consciousness is only half the picture. Your behaviour, operating style, demeanour, character or whatever noun you choose to describe you in action is only important when you are in the presence of others. It is not enough to just have a clearer understanding of your inner workings, preferences, tendencies or personality. How you appear and occur to other people is vitally important but, even more important in our view, how you change and adapt to other people’s behaviour, needs and expectations is the measure of your Behavioural Intelligence – this is Emotional Intelligence in action. Having the ability to notice what’s going on and consciously choose what to say or do next rather than be governed by instinctive or impulsive responses.
The great thing about any of the tools we previously mentioned is that they give you a language to describe what’s going on – and this helps your brain to more quickly identify, evaluate and then consciously choose. It may be only a fraction of a second’s difference but that can mean the difference between success and failure in negotiations, influencing and creating the right impression in working relationships. You cannot control others’ behaviour – but you can control yours.
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How do I read people?
We offer the following 10 tips as ways to read and understand the person and situation quickly and then choose what to do or say next.
- Practise moving your focus of attention during conversations so that you become almost a detached observer or video camera watching you and the other person talking. This means moving the focus from you and what you’re concerned with to the bigger picture of what’s happening in the space between you.
- Take notice of how they engage in conversation and whether they tend to initiate things or wait for others to start. You are looking for clues as to where their focus and energy is so notice if they tend to think before speaking (an inward focus) or bounce ideas off others (an external focus)
- Consider how they describe things and how much detail they give. Do they tend to use short phrases to just give a flavour or do they give lengthy descriptions with lots of specifics about situations? This tells you how they work with data and how they like to gather information.
- Mentally record whether they tend to talk about things in a logical, objective way or use words and examples about feelings, values and motives. Listen particularly when they are describing a decision or choice they have made and notice whether there were personal issues considered or just logic and rationality.
- Notice how they seem to think about time and planning. Do they seem to have a structured way of working and organising themselves or do they seem to enjoy a more spontaneous and flexible approach? There are clues in their descriptions and thoughts about future plans, projects and work deadlines
- Use your information from the previous four areas to form pictures with keywords that describe the person you are studying or reading. Outgoing or Self-Contained? Detail Focus or Summaries? Feelings or Logic? Organised or Spontaneous? This will help you engage with them in a way that they are comfortable with.
- Notice when you are talking versus listening and practise doing much more of the latter. Don’t jump in with “that reminds me” personal experiences of your own. Become focussed and curious about people and build mental pictures as they speak – then ask questions about the pictures.
- Ask questions which are about more than facts and basic data. Develop some words which you are comfortable with which ask people about what their thinking is concerning something they’ve just said or how they feel about a particular topic they have raised. Keep building your pictures from their answers.
- When you have built a basic relationship with them, (you’ll know because they answer your questions about their thinking and feelings) consider asking a “Why” question. These are more personal so don’t be in a hurry. Your purpose here is to start understanding their values and what’s important to them.
- Keep checking your initial judgments and observations with your mental video camera switched on and notice whether there is evidence for what you guessed or assumed from the earlier conversations. Test your assumptions by asking questions or just listening to them talk to others and noticing how they are speaking.