Let’s start with an agreement. We all have blind spots. These are those pesky places in our lives where we don’t see ourself with clarity. Alas, these are also often areas that others see quite well. I wrote about JoHari’s Window in my book StoryJacking, That area where you don’t know, but others do know, that’s the blind spot. I have found the window is a great framework for awareness. If you’re interested, I am attaching a JoHari worksheet here Johari Window Worksheet. And, by the end of this article, I want to share some antidotes that come from Emotional Intelligence that challenge our blind spots and support your living a more conscious life.
You and everyone you know has blind spots.
It would be very cool if you could go through life perfect. Perfect in every action or deed or thought. Yet, that’s not the way we humans roll. We are incredibly messy. While I love a good mess as much as the next person, I prefer to learn from them. The reality is that we are all in relationships with other people. And, where our relationships get the messiest is often when two blindspots run into each other; it’s usually in the dark recesses of the dark darkness. Yep, that’s a real place. Though you may call this place, work, the office, home, online, over the phone, texting, really the locations are endless.
So, what’s an ever-evolving human being to do? Well, the research says, develop your emotional intelligence. Get comfortable with the mindset that the only way to greater awareness comes in the form of listening to how we interact with the world around us. Our blind spots are different and yet, the blind spot(s) that’s yours will negatively impact your ability to lead an agile team, raise healthy human beings, or be in long term relationships.
Common Blind Spots
You believe that you can tell people what to do and they will change.
When we talk with people, and they share an issue that they are wrangling with, the seduction of wisdom is strong. It’s easy to have the clarity of distance when we have zero emotional attachment to the outcome. And, it’s easy to have our biases triggered when we do have an emotional, financial, or any attachment to the outcome. It’s a bit of damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Yet, if you believe that you have the answers and that when you tell people what to do, that they will change, you’re missing some vital intel. People don’t make inside out connections from being told something. There are other components that make a story real and applicable for them. It’s the reason that very few of us learn by watching others. If that really held water, after all the history of the world, none of us would ever make a misstep again.
That you are spending enough time making healthy relationships.
For most people, we have a lot of superficial relationships. The depth of our connectedness tends to fly right over the surface, never dipping very deeply into the realm of realness or messiness. I think that the epic of loneliness that we see is an example of this. We go to work, where we spend time with people, and they may or may not really know us, and we may or may not really know them. Only to come home, press rewind, and play the same story there also.
Healthy relationships take time and energy. They take asking questions about the landscape of another person’s life. And they tend to require a reciprocity of interest. As friends, or bosses, leaders or partners, we can fall easily into assumptions that we are doing what it takes, only to find that others don’t share our experience. I know for myself that my husband and I have to check in regularly, to make sure that we’re good. We have to connect on multiple levels. The same is true in organizations, friendships and families.
One sad sentiment I have heard as a joke through the years, “I told you that I loved you once, why do I have to keep telling you?” Insert any postitive comment that you told someone once and now have forgotten to ever say again. People need to know that you care about them, or they forget.
I’ve seen this show up in organizations when leaders start giving feedback and the people around them shut down. “But, we had a great conversation once.” When rapid change is needed and everyone is moving like a turtle, look to your blind spots. The experience of being seen and understood, is key to change.
The belief that you communicate clearly when you are stressed out or upset.
Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a drunk person? Unless you’re drunk also, it tends to be pointless. Sometimes it’s funny, but often it’s a big waste of time. Well, there is a similar thing that happens when your brain is hopped up on stress or anger. When the fight, flight, freeze, or freakout sets in, our brain shuts down our ability to think clearly and becomes hyper-reactive. This is fabulous if you are attempting to outrun a tiger, or at least all the other people running away with you. It’s not such a winning thing to try to have a meaningful conversation with your thinking center turned off.
Consider what tools you have that support you to self-regulate these emotions. I write about some ways to navigate difficult conversations in How to Own the “I” in Difficult.
That you can avoid difficult conversations
Not many of us are excited about diving into a hard conversation. Finding the words to navigate serious concerns or outright problems with the skill to have a productive and empowering conversation, often feels beyond us. So we tend to default to a) ignoring the issue… Let me just put my head in the sand over here. Don’t you worry about me… Or, b) stuffing, stuffing, stuffing until an explosion is near. I am not saying that you need to jump into a difficult conversation rather than avoid it, but taking the time to determine what is really important to be addressed can save you time and hurt in the long run.
When we do damage in conversations, we create more energetic work, as we try to clean up the mess we made.
In a nutshell, Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is that capacity to regulate our own emotions, while at the same time reading other peoples emotional field. And, probably everything we need to know about ourselves and life was first said by Marcus Aurelius. But Danial Goleman opened all our eyes to a simple and important truth. Mental intelligence isn’t enough lots of very smart people have blind spots and shag up their lives. I think that EQ is probably an antidote to most human concerns, but it certainly plays a large part in helping you avoid the pitfalls of not being self-aware, which is where we will start.
Starting with self-awareness, the willingness to stretch the quadrant of the JoHari window, so that your understanding of yourself, and your motives, biases, and reactions, is the largest half of the window. Not shrinking back from your light or your shadow. Owning both aspects of yourself and then making choices about how you want to show up in the world.
Self-regulation of your emotions, that capacity to notice when you are heading off the rails and the tools to bring yourself back to emotional balance. For years I taught anger management for the Air Force, and people in my group would say, “I just snap, I am fine and then snap, I am not fine.” I would often walk over to a light switch and ask, flipping the lights off, then flipping them on, “Is it like this?” “Yeah.” Well, in that demonstration, we need to look at all the steps that took me over to the light switch, to begin with. The ability to recognize signs, name them, and then choose to do something different is all part of developing emotional maturity.
Social intelligence is our capacity for reading the lay of the land in social situations. It is fundamentally based on our ability to read the emotional landscape of those around us. Noticing energetic shifts in conversations, the subtle signs that someone is feeling overwhelmed, or upset, and even if they are still having a good time. In short, it is the ability to read the verbal and non-verbal language of relationships. The better you are at this, the more likely you can notice problems before they reach the “Houston we have a problem” stage.
There is a deeper dive to take on EQ, yet, these qualities all serve as an antidote to our blind spots. As we develop self-awareness and expand our ability to read the world and the people around us, the greater our capacity to avoid these common blind spots.
I would LOVE to hear from YOU!
- What is one blind spot you are now curious about?
- Name one action that you are willing to take to challenge that blind spot?
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