In many of my conversations, the topic of self awareness among project personnel comes up. It comes up both in general and most specifically as a major contributor to the development of successful and effective interpersonal and cross cultural communicators. During these discussions, you quickly realise just how effective and, indeed, essential it is for anyone wanting to become effective in any form of intercultural exchange to firstly understand themselves.
People need to understand not just what they like and dislike but why, what motivates and demotivates them and why, what they find rewarding in their work and private lives and how they gain gratification from the work they do. Then, having done this initial self assessment, they need to pause and consider what all of these factors really mean to them. In essence, what they are doing is identifying their personal values systems, picking out the highs and lows from the many things that happen in a working day or week, and really considering how these events influence their level of motivation.
Only after taking the time to do this exercise of introspective examination, can you even begin to understand what makes you tick, and for that matter what will stop you ticking or make you explode.
Ways To Build Self Awareness
There are many different ways for an individual to build their self awareness, including meditation, coaching and mentoring, self reflection and others.
For many, meditation is part of their daily routine and can help build self awareness. Whether it is private, self directed meditation or follows an external process, such as that offered by on line services such as Headspace who offer a range of guided meditation audio files that help users find both inner peace, along with websites such as Nestmaven who have a number of resources available. Meditation is a great way to let your mind rest, then to let that rested mind explore your inner thoughts and ideas. With so many busy people swearing by meditation, it is also relatively easy to find experienced practitioners who can help beginners find ways to practice.
Mentoring and Coaching
On the other side of the coin is building self awareness through the use of facilitated coaching and mentoring. This relies on the external support of professional and on occasion, amateur mentors or coaches to help the individual understand and explore their views and beliefs. Done well, and with a good mentor or coach, this can be a very powerful way to really get to grips with how you see the world and, more importantly, how others see their world and see you in it.
General Self Reflection
Self guided reflection is also a good way to explore your inner thoughts and beliefs and build your self awareness. Taking time to sit quietly, often with a note book or blank page, and to write down what you believe and how you see things. With these notes you can then start to expand and investigate the opposite factors, why these negative thoughts and ideas are negatives and how these negative thoughts may impact your actions and reactions, particularly when dealing with others.
Growing Your Self Awareness
Now, at this point, I really must stress that this just a beginners level discussion of self awareness. Its only just scratching the surface; really deep self awareness can take many years of dedicated self examination and critical thinking, exploration of your conscious and unconscious thoughts and actions to achieve. Not everything you find inside of yourself will be attractive to you, you may well find some things you would like to change, but you will find plenty of good things you like and want to retain and build on.
From your growing self awareness you can then start to work on improving the good things and removing from your behavioural patterns the things you don’t like. But it is not until you start looking, that you will really start to see what is in there.
So, the next time you meet someone from another culture, before rushing to judge them against your unconscious value systems, practice that self awareness. Suspend your reactive judgement and assumptions that what drives you will also drive them, consider for a moment that not everything that motivates you motivates them, that things that you find trivial are, possibly, extremely important for them and vice versa, that things that feed your sense of self worth simply don’t do it for them.
If you can do this, then keep this mental self awareness in mind when you are dealing with people from other cultures. Through this you are heading along the path of becoming both a better intercultural communicator and, at the same time, gaining a better insight into your own personality. It is a long and often painful path to tread, but one that will lead you to a better place.
Share your experiences
Do you have any tips or personal experiences you would like to share around building your self awareness? if so, we would love to hear from you.
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