Thursday, May 11, 2017

True Self-Awareness

As often happens these days, much of the most interesting work in psychology does not come from empathy-laden therapists. It comes from people who work with businesses, who deal with real problems involving real people.

Today I am happy to bestow laurels on Tasha Eurich, an organizational psychologist who has written a book called: Insight. The therapy world has long since touted the value of introspection, leading to self-awareness. It has taught people to ignore everyday realities in favor of soul searching, a never-ending and fruitless search for one’s truest hidden motives.

To which Eurich responds, if you want to know yourself, if you want to attain a degree of self-awareness, pay close attention to how other people see you. In effect, this is another way of saying that you are your face. I have written two books on the subject. Thus, I am definitively sympathetic to Eurich’s position.

If only New York Magazine, where Eurich is interviewed, would pass the message along to its highly challenged advice columnist, Dear Polly, and teach her to stop advising people to feel their feelings.

I would mention, for those who care, that the way you look to other people, your reputation, involves your senses of pride and shame. I would also mention that introspective soul searching will supposedly get you in touch with your feelings of guilt… of all your hidden nefarious motives.

How radical is she? If you consider that psycho professionals drone on about how you should ignore how other people see you or how you look to others, she is very radical indeed. In the real world, of course, your reputation depends on how others see you. Surely, this vision is not arbitrary. Your actions contribute mightily to your reputation. Yet, it often happens that inaccurate information is passed around, to your detriment. Rather than ignore it you do best to confront it.

Be that as it may, Eurich has discovered that we all believe that we are perfectly self-aware, that we know ourselves. The truth lies somewhere in the 10% to 15% range. Most of us do not have a clue about how others see us.

Eurich is impressed by the disjunction between who I think I am and who other people see:

There’s something I call internal self-awareness, which is understanding inwardly who am I, what makes me tick, what do I want to do in my life. And there’s another kind called external self-awareness, which is knowing how people see me. And what’s fascinating about those two things is that they are completely unrelated. You can be high in both, you can be low in both, and you can be high in one and not in the other.

Somebody who’s high in internal self-awareness and low on external self-awareness is saying, I know who I am. I don’t care what anybody thinks of me, because I am really in touch with myself — and I’m the only person that matters. And then on the other side of it is someone who is so interested in how they’re seen by others that they don’t necessarily do the work and make the choices that are in their own best interest.

It’s a balancing act between these two types. Sometimes people say things like, Other people’s opinions of me be damned! It doesn’t matter what people think of me! They’re welcome to feel that way, but the second part of their statement isn’t really true — it actually does matter what people think of you. If you want to be successful in your career, if you want to have strong and lasting relationships, if you want to have a happy and fulfilling life, a lot of that is dependent on you understanding how you’re perceived.

For the record, people who are convinced that they know who they are and do not care what anyone else thinks of them have done too much therapy. They are suffering from a therapy-induced abnormality.

Eurich continues that if we want to have a more accurate sense of who we are, we should find out what other people think of us, not what we think of ourselves.

She explains:

It’s true. Our own internal opinions about ourselves do matter, but there is research showing that the way other people see us is more objective than the way we see ourselves. And other people can also predict our future behavior better than we can. The example I always give is — think of a time when you met one of your best friends’ brand new significant others, and you talk to that person for five minutes, and you say, This relationship is doomed. And then you’re right.

There are just so many things about ourselves that we truly can’t see. Also, other people are just less inclined to see us with rose-colored glasses — they see our behavior more objectively just by being in a different position to view us.

It’s not necessarily that we’re wrong, or ignorant about ourselves. It’s just that sometimes other people can see things more honestly. And that’s why I just think – my gosh, if you’re not getting feedback from people, who knows what you’re going to conclude about yourself? We owe it to ourselves to be objective.

Yes, indeed. You need to get feedback. And you need to be getting honest feedback. When schoolteachers give their pupils unearned praise, when they lie to them, they are systematically corrupting the pupils’ moral sense, their ability to accept honest feedback. Said pupils end up thinking that adults lie all the time.

What matters is the face you present to the public, how others see you:

And what the data has really clearly shown us is that it is always better to know — to see ourselves clearly, to see how other people see us. There’s a lot of research that says when you look at yourself with rose-colored glasses, your relationships are weaker, you’re more poorly thought of than your colleagues, you’re less likely to be promoted.

If this is true, major parts of the therapy profession have been selling snake oil. But, you knew that already. And you also know that most therapists refuse categorically to examine how they look to people outside of their profession.


Ares Olympus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Stuart Schneiderman said...

When I said I wanted certain people to keep their comments short I wasn't kidding.

Ares Olympus said...

Stuart, I'm sure there'll be some cheers for your execution.

In my defense, my comment was on topic and focused, and not even disagreeable, supporting the fact both are important - internal and external self-awareness.

And I'll believe your good faith in deleting if you do the same to the 9 sequential comments, 3700 words by an anonymous person yesterday.

If you want to set standards, set them and clearly, and be consistent. I still don't know what your standards are, but I accept that doesn't give you much editorial middle ground to work with.

trigger warning said...

"If you want to set standards, set them and clearly, and be consistent."

The Comment Thread Police have spoken, Schneiderman... Govern yourself accordingly.


Ares Olympus said...

p.s. I see the author, Tasha Eurich, has a lecture about her book, clipped down to 20 minute. It's worth a listen. Insight: Why We're Not as Self Aware as We Think - 2017

She talked about "self awareness unicorns" who have "true self-aware", apparently only 10-15% of us, and the test in identifying them is that a self-assessment and assessment from friends must agree specific traits.

She says these unicorns have just as much difficulty in receiving feedback from others, but they try anyway.

She mentioned "The least competent people are most confident in their abilities", which is known as the Dunning–Kruger effect.

Her 7 pillars of insights are: (quickly given, no details, read the book!)
1. Values - the principles we want to live our lives
2. Passions
3. Aspirations
4. Fit - what kind of environment is best for our abilities.
5. Patterns - our consistent ways of behaving
6. Reactions - our ability to monitor or reactions
7. Awareness of the impact we have on others

Good feedback has 3 steps:
1. Ask the right people.

Not everyone will tell us the truth. Don't ask unloving critics. Don't ask uncritical lovers. Ask people who you know have your best interest at heart, and who are willing to be honest when you ask.

2. Ask the right questions.

Be very clear what feedback you want. Which sorts of behaviors do you want to know about?

3. Use the right process.

Give context for your request, and if possible, allow them time to observe and pay attention to what you want them to look at.

Anonymous said...

So instead of one massive comment by AO, we're gonna have several semi-long ones. I guess I'll just have to do the ignore navigation around them.

Blahgga the Hutt

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares Olympus: "Stuart, I'm sure there'll be some cheers for your execution."


Blahgga: Thank God for the scroll bar. The amazing thing after all AO's talk about feedback, he seems to have missed the feedback many have communicated to him here. Perhaps he doesn't care, which would explain the esteem he is held in. Fitting that Dunning-Kruger would say "The least competent people are most confident in their abilities."

Ares: Time to take a look at those 7 Pillars of Insight, and apply them to yourself.

TW: As for the "Comment Thread Police," Sean Connery's character in "The Untouchables" had a couple unforgettable lines:

"So, what are you going to do about it?"

"What are you prepared to do?"

Ares Olympus said...

IAC: The amazing thing after all AO's talk about feedback, he seems to have missed the feedback many have communicated to him here. Perhaps he doesn't care, which would explain the esteem he is held in. Fitting that Dunning-Kruger would say "The least competent people are most confident in their abilities."

Competence is a tricky when dealing in opinions. We know our president is incompetent and ignorant, so we have to trust he surrounds himself by competent people to prod him into fact-base thinking.

But everyone love Trump because of his ignorance and he can say anything he wants because he doesn't know any better. They want him to stir things up, and force the opposition to defend their long held expert turfs. The elite and experts are no match for the twitter master.

If I was elected president, I'd definite be concerned about the Dunning-Kruger in my own character, while in fact without any power to inflict anything on others more than opinion that makes me at worst, to quote Hitchhiker's guide to the galaxy as "mostly harmless."

I know the illiberal left would prefer to silence the opposition that they don't like, but I've not tried to silence anyone, and I've not claimed singular confidence in any of my opinions outside of direct knowledge. In fact my ideal way to escape ideology is to always keep at least two contrary positions in mine to any consideration I give to a subject. I don't have to say both positions are equally likely. I only need to identity the most intellectually threatening counter-narrative I can find.

If I did hold sway to the opinions of others on my expressed opinions, surely it would be much easier for me to learn how to trash talk whomever isn't in any given room at the time who can't defend himself.

If its good enough for talk radio, it's good enough for many people I'm not impressed with. That's my bias.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Ares, I'm not sure what President Trump has to do with Dunning-Kruger, but you cannot resist, can you? Trump owns you.

trigger warning said...

There are many Proglodytes who let Trump live inside their heads. Rent free. The man has rearranged the mental furniture. He's a remarkably successful man, and has consumed the Left. It's masterful, actually. The entire Proglodyte political agenda is laser focused on him, and apparently to no effect. I observe it play out, and I'm astonished.

Ares Olympus said...

trigger warning said... There are many Proglodytes who let Trump live inside their heads. Rent free. The man has rearranged the mental furniture.

Nice try, but anyone not worried about Trump as president is a fool, and that seems to be a fair fraction of commenters here. I still try to understand. Once Trump leaves office, he can go back to being his lovable billionaire self to people who want to admire him.

I'll give Trump points for being a great huckster. Trump's "true self-awareness" would seem difficult to measure if he's surrounded by yes-men who refuse to trigger Trump's next temper tantrum by giving their honest assessment.

Anonymous said...

AO needs therapy. Dr. Schneiderman, the proper prescription is full censorship of his irrelevant rantings. This has gone on long enough. The jury's verdict is clear. It's not that he's a challenging or alternative voice, it's that he's a shrieking crazy man who drowns out the conversation. Let's get back to the subject of your blog posts.

Anonymous said...

I've had enough Ares.

Sam L. said...

Hey, tw! You forgot the Sara Palin effect on the progs! Sure, it's diminished, but there's still a kernel of it remaining.

Ares Olympus said...

Donald Trump definitely isn't interested in external self awareness, terrified that his denials on what he said in private could be disproval by secret recordings. Why not just tell the truth? Of course, that would mean realizing you're an emperor with no clothes on.
@realDonaldTrump - James Comey better hope that there are no "tapes" of our conversations before he starts leaking to the press!

Anonymous said...

'but there is research showing that the way other people see us is more objective than the way we see ourselves.'

Sample size is an issue. There is only one of me to have an opinion of me (n = 1) but many others to have an opinion of me (n > 1)

Even if everyone is completely objective, the second option leads to an averaging of many opinions which is more likely to correctly reflect reality.

Ares Olympus said...

Anonymous @12:22PM, indeed, that's what Tasha Eurich is suggesting.

But she also admitted the difficulty in getting good feedback from others, and suggested 3 steps (right people, right questions, right process) for the best feedback, given in her related video: Insight: Why We're Not as Self Aware as We Think - 2017

She says "Not everyone will tell us the truth. Don't ask unloving critics. Don't ask uncritical lovers. Ask people who you know have your best interest at heart, and who are willing to be honest when you ask."

Jackie Raynal said...

My gosh,Stuart for all those comments you did receive for your today blog !
☺⌛ .
I will say:« l'habit ne fait pas le moine » et ...« vice versa»

James said...

Youcan get a lot of "true self awareness" by slamming a door on your hand.

Anonymous said...

Looks like you've lost control of your comments section, Schneiderman. And it all traces back to one person. Is it worth it?

Ares Olympus said...

On IAC's incredulity of Trump's relation to the Dunning-Kruger effect relation, my thoughts are not unique. Some people need tiger-blood and cocaine to instantly know everything, others maybe just need to be surrounded by sycophants for 50 years.

External self awareness is the obvious cure, along with a willingness to remember accurately what you said yesterday and compare it to today.
This is getting close to Will’s diagnosis of Donald Trump as a person who thinks he knows everything but in fact doesn’t know what it is to know something. The Dunning-Kruger effect and the knowledge illusion aren’t disorders, but are part and parcel of being human. Some people, however, are much more subject to these than others. And Trump seems to occupy an extreme end of the spectrum.

Is there any hope for Trump? His experience as president may make him more aware of how little he knows, said Sloman. Trump recently told reporters, for example, that “Nobody knew health care was so complicated.” He couldn’t quite bring himself to admit being wrong without sharing the blame with the rest of the world -– but perhaps it’s a start.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

Look up the word "incredulity," Ares, and you'll have my response.

Correct you are: I do not believe.

Your command of the English language is pathetic.

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said...

And keep pulling from Bloomberg. Really objective source. Impressive.

Ares Olympus said...

Ignatius Acton Chesterton OCD said... Your command of the English language is pathetic.

Don't worry, I don't mind being pitied. English is a tough language for all of us, so I'll try to keep learning too.

I just hope you don't think you need to offer me softballs to help me feel better.

Ares Olympus said...

Another day, another vote for Trump and the Dunning-Kruger effect and Trump's lack of external self-awareness, but I know, the New York Times and David Brooks are not "objective", so must be ignored. Or its all an act, to confuse people, so no worries, or chaos is what you want sown, so its all good.
[Trump] is thus the all-time record-holder of the Dunning-Kruger effect, the phenomenon in which the incompetent person is too incompetent to understand his own incompetence. Trump thought he’d be celebrated for firing James Comey. He thought his press coverage would grow wildly positive once he won the nomination. He is perpetually surprised because reality does not comport with his fantasies.
He seems to have not yet developed a theory of mind. Other people are black boxes that supply either affirmation or disapproval. As a result, he is weirdly transparent. He wants people to love him, so he is constantly telling interviewers that he is widely loved. In Trump’s telling, every meeting was scheduled for 15 minutes but his guests stayed two hours because they liked him so much.
We’ve got this perverse situation in which the vast analytic powers of the entire world are being spent trying to understand a guy whose thoughts are often just six fireflies beeping randomly in a jar.

“We badly want to understand Trump, to grasp him,” David Roberts writes in Vox. “It might give us some sense of control, or at least an ability to predict what he will do next. But what if there’s nothing to understand? What if there is no there there?”