“You may trod me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.”
- Maya Angelou
If you read my previous post, you have already learned some fairly private information about me. Overall, I am a private person… I’ve always thought that keeping my personal information inside was the best way to succeed in work, school, and interpersonal relationships. Recently, however, I found I was mistaken.
I think self-awareness is crucial to overall success. But self-awareness is a tricky thing – just because you think you know the impression you’re leaving on others doesn’t actually mean it’s accurate. I found this out the hard way from fellow co-workers at CONTACT Rape Crisis Center, where I currently work full-time as a Victim Advocate. As a sensitive yet rational person, I have never liked to give away my thoughts on controversial subjects immediately; rather, I like to think over the facts and then return to the discussion on a later time. As to not give away my inner feelings and possibly offend a coworker, I keep a straight face throughout the conversation. Makes sense, right? It made sense to me until a coworker gave me this heartbreaking revelation:
“When you make that face we think you want to kill us all*.”
Um, WHAT?! That’s TERRIBLE! That is the completely opposite effect I am trying to make! After thinking about this for a long
time, I began to face the facts: I have no idea what kind of impression I am leaving to others. In order to figure out how to better communicate, I started to make mental lists of the evidence suggesting my lack of communication. This is what I came up with:
Amanda’s Problem Areas:
- Convincing others to join me when it is not mandatory
- Showing excitement/happiness and getting others to share it
- Creating/maintaining long lasting interpersonal relationships
- Feeling excluded
- Trusting others to complete a project I’ve started
To me, the evidence is there: I suck at communicating with people. But why? I’ve thought about this over and over again and it all comes back to one thing: self-awareness (or in my case, the lack thereof). My intentions and reality are clearly not matching up and it’s now my mission to put them in balance.
Which brings me to the more interesting part of the story… the way I found my self-awareness. I was perusing the self-help section of the bookstore when I saw an interesting title – “Self-Awareness: The Hidden Driver of Success and Satisfaction” (you can buy it here on amazon). On the back of the book, it claimed it would help me engage my innate talents, maximize my strengths, avoid the pitfalls of my distinctive type (like poor communication perhaps?), work smarter with others, build better teams, and to profit from better relationships in every aspect of my life. WOW. To me this was the holy grail of self-awareness and I bought it (for a steal at 6 bucks!).
Although my friend was mocking me, I seriously delved into this book. I learned all about the DISC method of personality studies and how it affects the way people work individually and in groups. I learned about the different types of people in the population and how they each work in slightly varying ways, and how these variants cause strife among their peers. Fascinating stuff.
Finally, I was ready to take the test. When you buy the book, you get a password to take the personality test for free online. I highly suggest to anyone to buy the book since you get a much better deal than just simply buying the test. Plus, you have the whole book to look through at your leisure and the information in it is fascinating! My coworker (the one who started this self-awareness process) and I sat down to take the test which is consisted of a variety of adjectives set up in groups of four. Your task is to pick which of the adjectives is most like you and which is the least like you.
First, I highly suggest you take it with someone who has been around you for a significant amount of time. You will be surprised with the differences in how you see yourself versus how others see you. This definitely changed my results and, in my opinion, helped me create a much more accurate response. Second, this test is HARD. Not hard in an intellectual way, but hard in that it’s really difficult to pick an adjective sometimes! While the test recommended about 15 minutes for completion, my coworker and I took about 45 minutes to complete mine.
Based on the DISC test, I am classified as a “Detective” personality trait. Sounds pretty cool, huh? Once I read through my profile, I felt enlightened. It was EXACTLY me! Crazy, right? Here are some highlights from my profile:
- Emphasizing the bottom line impact of actions
- Gathering data and making sound decisions
- Setting up standards and guidelines
- Seeing the “big picture”
- Conducting independent research
- Admitting mistakes
- Making quick decisions
- Disclosing to peers
- Developing relationships
My favorite part was a section where it talks about creating relationships. It says, “A Detective is not prone to self-disclosure, which can make her come across a bit standoffish to other team members.” Once I read this to my friend who mocked me at the bookstore, his jaw dropped as he told me he was now a believer. CRAZY!
This entire process has been incredibly enlightening. I have enjoyed self-evaluation a lot more than I thought I would and have noticed a change in my interactions just within the last few weeks. Unfortunately, not everyone is born with the ability to connect to people right off the bat, but I do believe that everyone is capable of it if they work at it. Which is why I started this post with an excellent quote from Maya Angelou – although my difficulties with communication have pushed me down and blocked progress, I will rise up and improve myself. There is no challenge so great that I cannot overcome, even if the challenge is in my own head.
If you have had any self-awareness revelations or have overcome a personal challenge, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Until next time,
*This kind of makes my coworker sound mean, but she is wonderful person who was speaking honestly without malice, despite what it may seem from this quote.