[00:00:06.4] ANNOUNCER: Welcome to The Science of Success introducing your host, Matt Bodnar.
[0:00:11.9] MB: Welcome to the Science of Success, the number one evidence-based growth podcast on the Internet with more than a million downloads and listeners in over 100 countries. In this episode we discuss one of the most important evidence-based psychology principles that makes you successful; self-awareness. We look at the difference between people who succeed and those who plateau. We talk about why self-awareness is the meta-skill of the 21st-century and the foundational skill required to succeed in nearly anything, and we examine conclusions from over 800 scientific studies about self-awareness, with our guest, Dr. Tasha Eurich.
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In our previous episode, we discussed how to master relationships. Went deep into cutting-edge networking strategies from one of the world’s top connectors. Examine how to unite people in collaboration and co-elevation. Look at the power of generosity in building real and authentic relationships. Discussed how to let go of individualism and much more with our guest, Keith Ferrazzi. If you want to build a world-class network, listen to that episode.
[0:02:36.4] MB: Today, we have another awesome guest on the show, Dr. Tasha Eurich. Tasha is an organizational psychologist, researcher and principal of the Eurich group. She received her PhD in industrial organizational psychology from Colorado State University. She is the New York Times best-selling author of Bankable Leadership and Insight. Her TED Talk has been viewed over a million times and her work has been featured in Business Insider, Forbes, The New York Times, and much more.
Tasha, welcome to the Science of Success.
[0:03:04.5] TE: Thanks for having me. Great to be here.
[0:03:06.4] MB: We’re super excited to have you on today. So I'd love to start out with — One of the biggest themes and biggest things we talk about all the time in the show is self-awareness, and I know you’ve kind of describe self-awareness as the meta-skill of the 21st-century, and I’d love to hear little bit about what does that mean to you and why self-awareness is so important.
[0:03:27.4] TE: It’s such a great place to start, because I think it's really the Genesis of really all of my passion about the subject. So I'm an organizational psychologist, as you mentioned, and what I have done for the last 15 years is use evidence-based principles of psychology to help usually executives, but people in organizations be successful and make companies a better place to work and make leaders more effective and happier and be able to engage their people.
What I started to see him, really, over the course of that time were two types of leaders. One type of leader was successful, successful enough to get promoted, but really didn't have an appreciation of who they were. Who were they authentically? What did they value? What was important to them? Nor did they have an appreciation of how other people saw them. They inadvertently got in their own way. A lot of times with those people, it's not a matter of if, but when they crash and burn.
On the optimistic side, the other type of person I saw or leader were people who were able to sort of meet any challenge that came their way, and the reason they could was they knew very clearly who they were. They knew their values. They knew their strengths. They knew what they didn't know, and they also had an appreciation for the effects they were having on the people around them. This is sort of what we call self-awareness.
About four years ago, I — This is really embarrassing, but it was Christmas break and I was kind of bored. I didn't have a lot of client work and I said, “I wonder ant what the research on self-awareness really is. What do we now?”
I started to do a review of what the science on self-awareness really said and I discovered just how little we knew. We've been talking about it in the business world so much that it's kind of this buzzword, but from a scientific evidence-based perspective, there were so many things that we were assuming that may or may not have been true.
I basically have spent the last four years of my life going through a very in-depth program to understand what self-awareness really is, where it comes from, why we needed and, really, how to get more of it. So that’s the preface of how I became so passionate about this.
The reason that everybody who’s listening to this can be passionate about it too, if they’re not already, is I call it the meta-skill of the 21st-century. There’s so much evidence that people who are self-aware are more fulfilled. They have stronger relationships. They’re more creative. They’re better communicators. They’re more confident. They are more effective leaders. Actually, there is evidence that self-aware leaders actually lead more profitable companies. So there’s tremendous amount of benefit.
The reason it’s the meta-skill is basically our self-awareness sets the upper limit for so many of the skills that we need to be successful in the world right now. Things like communication skills, influence, emotional intelligence, collaboration. We can only be as good at each of those things as we are self-aware. The other thing I call it sometimes is the secret weapon of the 21st-century. So many people think they're self-aware, but they actually aren't. So people that work on it are the ones that really I've seen reap the rewards time and time again.
[0:06:52.1] MB: You brought up a great point, which is something that I've always found really sort of fascinating and maybe a little bit sad, but the idea that the less self-aware someone is, the less they realize it.
[0:07:04.7] TS: It's pretty disconcerting, isn’t it?
[0:07:06.5] MB: Yeah. I mean it's kind of a manifestation essentially of the Dunning-Kruger effect and the idea that the least competent people have the least awareness of how unaware and sort of incompetent they are.
[0:07:20.2] TE: That's exactly it, and it does extend to self-awareness. My research has shown that — Get this, 95% of people think that they're self-aware, but only 10 to 15% actually are. The joke I always make is that means that on a good day, 80% of us are lying to ourselves about whether we’re lying to ourselves.
[0:07:41.9] MB: That's pretty amazing. It’s very meta in a sense. I'm curious, going back slightly, because I want to make sure we have a clear definition of this. You touched on it a little bit, but how do you actually define what is self-awareness?
[0:07:57.1] TE: We thought early on in our research program that this would be a pretty quick cursory questions to answer, but we ended up taking almost a year and reviewing 800 scientific studies to figure out what the heck is this thing we call self-awareness. People were defining it differently. They were using sometimes like conflicting definitions. We did that review of all of the research and we came up with two broad categories. Self-awareness in general is the ability to see ourselves clearly, but it's made up of two specific types of self-knowledge.
Number one, we call internal self-awareness, and that's kind of what we think about when we hear that term most of the time. It’s being clear on our values and our passions and our personality, our strengths and weaknesses, really seeing ourselves clearly from an internal perspective.
The other type of self-awareness, external self-awareness, has to do with our understanding of how other people see us. So that’s a completely different skillset. It's a different mindset. Surprisingly in our research, we also found that those two types of self-knowledge were completely unrelated. So somebody could be low on both, in which case they have nowhere to go but up. They could be high on both, which again is very rare. But more often than not, people tend to be a little bit higher on one than the other. You get these archetypes. You’ve got somebody who is clear internally, but doesn't understand external perceptions. I call those introspectors. Self-examination might be a hobby for them, but if you go talk to their friends, their friends would say, “Oh boy! Sometimes that person can be a little annoying, or they’re cheap or whatever,” but the person doesn't even have an understanding of that because they haven't taken the time.
The other side of the coin, I call pleasers, and I put myself in this category. These are people who spend so much time trying to understand how other people see them, that they might actually lose sight of what really matters to them. I think it's a really interesting framework because it helps us discover what are the areas of self-awareness that we can improve that will give us the biggest bang for our buck.
[0:10:07.6] MB: Have you found any correlation kind of between either one of those two being more or less related with kind of some of the outcomes you talked about a moment ago? Whether it’s being more fulfilled or being happy or being better communicators, etc.?
[0:10:20.5] TE: There is some evidence there that there is a little bit different effects. You start to think about some of those internal outcomes, like happiness, confidence. Those seem to be a little bit more related to internal self-awareness, and then if you look at the outcomes of that external self-awareness, things like our relationship strength or even other people's ratings of our emotional intelligence. Those tend to be a little bit more related to those external perceptions. What's interesting is for most outcomes, both of them are related. If we work on one out of the two, we might get benefits in both areas of our lives, kind of the internal part of our life and the external part of our life.
[0:11:03.0] MB: I want to dig in to kind of how we can cultivate both of those forms of self-awareness. But before we start with that, I want to circle back, one of the topics you touched on a second ago is this this idea that self-awareness is sort of a foundational skill. It's almost an underpinning of every other skill. I think that's a really critical point.
[0:11:22.9] TE: Exactly. Take something like communication. I cannot name a single person that I know that is a good communicator that is not also highly self-aware. To think about that internal and external self-awareness again, to be a good communicator you’ve got to know what you do well, what you don't do well. You’ve got to know what's important to you so you can be able to sort of authentically represent that. Then you also have to know the effect you're having on the people around you. You need to be able to tailor your communication to their style and their needs and their passions. It's just such a great example of where both of those types of self-knowledge are underpinning pretty much any other skill, and we could substitute so many other skills for communication, but I think that's just a good example kind of to start with.
[0:12:13.2] MB: We've seen that — I mean on the show we've interviewed all kinds of experts from a variety of fields and I’d say the single most current lessons that we've uncovered is that self-awareness is, as you said, sort of the meta-skill that’s necessary to be successful in, really, any area.
[0:12:31.3] TE: What I love about that is that our research has shown that self-awareness is an infinitely learnable skill. So sometimes it feels overwhelming to say, “Oh my gosh! I was one of those 95% who thought I was self-aware. Maybe I'm not that self-aware.” That’s a good thing, and what I can tell people is after that somewhat rude awakening, there is nothing but confidence and success and fulfillment on the other side of it.
In our research, one of the things we did, it was fascinating. We found people who didn't start out self-aware, but who became self-aware and made these really dramatic improvements in their lives, in their work, and we didn't find any demographic patterns. They weren’t more likely to be one gender than the other. Didn't matter what their industry was or their job. It didn't matter whether they worked or not. It didn't matter what age they were. The only thing these people had in common were really two things. Number one was a belief in the importance of self-awareness, and number two was a daily commitment to improving it. What I love about that is it sort of makes self-awareness available to all of us. We all are equally capable of building that self-awareness.
[0:13:49.7] MB: I'm curious, how did you cultivate that sort of — Maybe not cultivate, but those people who had as you called it kind of a rude awakening where they started to realize their own kind of lack of self-awareness. What was that catalyst and some of the research you did or the work you've done? What is really kind of broken people through that kind of fog and taught them, “Wow! Maybe I'm not nearly as self-aware as I thought I was.”
[0:14:15.5] TE: That’s such a good question. So just for terminology, we actually started to jokingly call these people that we’re talking about self-awareness unicorns, because we weren’t sure if we’d be able to actually find any, but thankfully we did. When we interviewed our unicorns about that exact question, we sort of found that those experiences fell into at least one of three categories. So the first category was being in some kind of a new role in their lives or having to play by a new set of rules. So that might be getting married, living with someone for the first time. It might be a new job in the same company. It might be a new job in a different company. Really, any situation where you have to fundamentally change your assumptions about your environment and sort of how you fit into that environment.
The second was something I call earthquake events, and these are those events in our lives that they’re usually negative that are so devastating that we can either bury our heads in the sand or we can say, “I need to figure out what role I played in this.” Everything from unexpected divorces, people were telling us about getting fired and they had no idea. They were completely shocked. We also found some people talked about even illnesses, really serious illnesses that they got through on to the other side, but that really catalyzed their self-awareness journey.
Here’s what interesting. Those two types of events to me seems like they would be the most common catalyst for self-awareness. We actually found a third type of event that was twice as likely to be a catalyst than the other two, and I call them every day insights. These are basically things that if we pay attention on a daily basis, we are getting so many opportunities to improve our self-awareness in just the normal course of our lives. This is a silly example, but I think it’s really — It says a lot about this area. One of our unicorns was talking about she was in her first apartment after college and she was moving in with her best friend. They were so excited. They were unpacking their kitchen and she barked to her friends, “Don't put the plastic cups in front of the glass cups. That's just ridiculous.”
She remembered sort of hovering outside of her body in that moment and saying, “Oh my gosh! Wow! I must be really controlling if I just said that,” and that was a huge insight for her that she was able to sort of build on and continue to examine her behavior.
Once again, I think it's great. We don’t have to wait for these events to come to us. We can decide that we’re going to get on top of it and really be in charge of our own journey.
[0:16:54.7] MB: I think that's a great point. Every day, life is so filled with rich experiences to think about and observe and get feedback on your behavior, your own thought patterns, the way you kind of act and behave in the world, and there is such ample opportunity if you can kind of open your eyes and start to actually look for these things.
[0:17:16.7] TE: That’s it. It’s all about paying attention, and sort of behind that is the mindset that in a positive self-accepting way, maybe I don't know myself as well as I think. What if I didn't? What kind of a newfound curiosity might that give me about my world?
[0:17:33.3] MB: So in the work you've done, what have you seen? What are some of the barriers that people have when they try to kind or begin this journey of self-awareness? What are some of the struggles or challenges that they encounter?
[0:17:44.9] TE: Oh my gosh! There are so many. We could do our own podcast just on this probably, but maybe I can attempt to sort of talk about the different categories that they fall in just so people can be aware of sometimes these really hidden factors that get in our way. The first type of barrier are the things internally just about how human beings are wired. What we've learned since the days of Freud is as much as we want to be able to excavate our own conscious thoughts and our feelings and our motives, “Why did I really do that?” or “Why am I really like this?” Most of that information is simply not available to us. It's trapped sort of in a locked basement where we can never find the key.
So many people — I think it's the influence of Freud that we just feel like, “Well, if I go to enough therapy or if I journal enough, these things are going to come to me.” It's not that we shouldn't introspect. Part of it is just that we often make many mistakes without knowing we’re making those mistakes.
One sort of easy way to get around that barrier is to accept it and to say, “Okay. I might not be able to know exactly why I picked a fight with my spouse this morning, but maybe instead of asking why, I should ask more action oriented logic-based questions.” Usually what I tell people is if you can substitute the word what for the word why, that’s going to give you a lot more insight. So instead of why did I get in the fight with my spouse, I can say, “Well, wait a minute. What contributions did my behavior have to the situation?” or “What are the common situations that I find myself behaving like this the most?” or “What do I need to work on in the future so that I can be more coolheaded?” Those are sort of those internal barriers that I think we just have to change the way we’re introspecting and we’ll get a lot more benefit.
The second overall category of barriers to self-awareness is the world that we live in. You sort of think about the rise or social media and reality TV and all of these celebrities who are famous for doing absolutely nothing. That isn’t coming without a cost, and I call it the cult of self. It’s this idea that in our daily lives, both online and offline, we’re being tempted to become more and more self-absorbed and less and less self-aware. Unless we actively fight back, we might find ourselves belonging to the cult without even knowing it.
One really easy way to get around that barrier, again, it’s not going to do everything, but it's a good start, is to really spend some time thinking about how you're showing up on and offline. Are you what researchers call a me former? Which is someone who constantly talks about themselves, is posting all their recent work accomplishments on their Facebook page or regaling all of their friends with stories about them all night, or are you in an informer who is really trying to focus on adding to other people's lives? Posting a beautiful photograph to Facebook or asking somebody about themselves and trying to learn more about them than talk about how smart or how right you are.
I think, again, it’s something that we just need to be aware of. Even in writing this book, I’ve become aware of so many behaviors I didn't know I was demonstrating, and that was one of them.
[0:21:03.8] MB: Those are kind of the two largest barriers, having sort of a flawed methodology of introspection and then also getting caught up in this kind of cult of the self.
[0:21:13.7] TE: Yeah. I think overall, those are probably the two places we can look first, and I think it’s important to remember that first barrier. We cannot excavate our unconsciousness. For so many people, that’s how they spend their time trying to get self-awareness. This is a very complicated subject and I don't want to be glib, but there are a lot of therapeutic approaches that are solely focused on excavating the in unconsciousness.
I think I’m not saying that therapy is bad. I'm not saying that introspection is bad. I just am encouraging people maybe to be a little bit more intelligent consumers both of help that they're getting from someone else, as well as the questions they’re asking themselves.
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[0:23:05.0] MB: Tel me more about that, that kind of notion that it's difficult to excavate our own conscience.
[0:23:10.8] TE: Really there, I think — I mentioned this earlier, but the influence of Freud has not left us. There has been so much research and evidence showing that a lot of his most fundamental assumptions about his work were wrong. He was right that we have sort of an unconscious set of thoughts, feelings, even behaviors that sometimes other people can see but we just don't have access to, and it's really interesting. There's so much work that's being done on this.
For example, we often have implicit behaviors that we’re engaging in that we have no idea we’re doing that other people do see. There was one study that said the reason for that, the researchers thoughts was that it was just because we didn't see ourselves from a different perspective and that if, for example, the researchers showed participants videos of themselves doing these things, that participants would actually notice it. Shockingly, they found that that wasn't the case.
There’s something about us that researchers, to be honest, don't fully understand that just gets in our way of seeing so many of our internal processes as well as our behavior. I think that’s alarming for some people, especially aficionados of self-awareness, but there's also something freeing about it to say, “I don't have to spend this time talking about my childhood. Maybe I need to make peace with my past and understand my past, but maybe it's about moving forward with purpose and sort of logic and curiosity.” That’s what I would encourage people to start to change in their mind.
The one other thing I'll say just about introspection in general is that in addition to the fact that it doesn't work the way most people are doing it, it's been shown over and over and over to be something that depresses us, that stresses us out, that makes us anxious. I remember the first time I discovered this in my data, it was really late at night and I was in my office and I just analyzed a set of data. We were looking at the relationship between people who introspect and things like happiness and stress and job satisfaction. I was absolutely convinced that the people who spent the time introspect would be better off. But our data found the exact opposite pattern.
We found that people who introspected were more stressed, they were more depressed, they felt less in control of their lives, and that sort of gets to some of these mistakes that we’re making, but it also has to do with this idea that to gain insight, we don’t have to get into all of those dark horrible places about ourselves. We can really think about moving forward.
I think if nothing else, if somebody is listening to this podcast and is passionate about self-awareness, I’d really encourage you to think about just kind of a self-awareness audit. What are the things I'm doing from an introspection perspective that are serving me, and what things might not be serving me as well as I think they are?
[0:26:17.9] MB: Yeah. It seems very counterintuitive, the idea that introspection can sort of fuel anxiety or depression, etc., and yet if we want to pursue self-awareness, that's kind of a very tight rope to be walking it seems.
[0:26:32.4] TE: It is. There's a reason so few of us are self-aware. I think even the most well-intentioned students of self-awareness, they're not aware of a lot of this research, and part of what my goal has been with all of these work with the work I'm doing and the work I am representing that other scientists are doing is to kind of get the word out and say, “We can make the world a more self-aware place. We can make ourselves more self-aware. To do it, we’re going to have to examine some of those fundamental assumptions that we've been making.
[0:27:02.2] MB: Just making sure that I understand, the idea is that focusing primarily on kind of action oriented, sort of forward-thinking applications to solve some of your sort of current challenges or problems is more effective than the idea that you should dig deep into past traumas or something like that.
[0:27:22.6] TE: That's what my research and a ton of other people's research has shown. Again, it’s sort of a hard fact to swallow. Back early in my research program when I first discovered this, I had this moment where I said, “Oh my God! Maybe self-awareness isn't actually a good thing to have, but I think we can distinguish the process of self-reflection from the outcome of self-reflection.”
Most people just generally assume that if I think about myself I’ll know myself better. Again, it's about being intelligent about the way we’re approaching it.
[0:27:55.7] MB: If you don't have this off the top of your head, it’s totally fine. But I’m curious. Do you know of who some of the other kind of researchers are as well? I’d love to dig in and do some homework on my own.
[0:28:04.3] TE: Oh, sure! Timothy Wilson has done a lot of really great work on that. He has a wonderful book called Strangers to Ourselves and it's very geeky and academic, which makes me love it. In there is basically every citation that has shown some of these effects.
Another researcher that's done a lot of really great work on this in the last 10 years is a gentleman named Anthony Grant, and he was, as far as I can tell, one of the first people to disentangle this idea of nonproductive self-reflection from productive insight about ourselves and really sort of discover the facts that just because we self-reflect doesn't mean we’re necessarily going to be self-aware.
[0:28:45.6] MB: We’ll make sure to include both of those sites in the show notes as well. I think that's a really interesting conclusion and very important distinction to make.
[0:28:53.9] TE: It really is, and I hope everyone that’s listening to this can help us get the word out. Again, if we want to make the world a better place, and I think probably everybody wants to do that right now given where we are, we have to start by making it more self-aware. To do that, I think it's not even just educating ourselves and changing our own behavior. It's helping other people who are open to it and interested, really learn kind of the truth about it.
[0:29:18.5] MB: So for someone who wants to embark on that journey of self-awareness, from the work you've done, how would you kind of put together a self-awareness training regimen for them to start or some other kind of first steps that would be really productive, things to do to begin that journey?
[0:29:35.0] TE: Sure. My glib response is they should totally buy a copy of my new book, Insight. The reason I say that actually in truth is there are tons and tons and tons of strategies, and it's not just a matter of saying do this, this and this and you will be self-aware. It's about really sort of starting with a mindset that says, “I am going to be braver enough to become wiser about myself,” and I call that braver, but wiser, to start to question some of those assumptions you’ve been making about yourself or about how others see you.
From there, you’ve got to start doing some diagnostics about my internal and external self-awareness. Where am I actually at? Everyone who's listening to this is smart enough to know that we can’t evaluate our self-awareness on our own. We have to look at how other people see us and talk to them about those perceptions.
There's actually a really cool quiz that we put together just as a resource to support this book that's totally free. If anybody wants to take a quick quiz on that, where basically you fill out 14 questions and then you send a survey to someone who knows you well. They fill out the 14 questions and then you get a report that says, “Here's your high-level internal and external self-awareness.” I think that's a really important part of the process, because maybe you're doing great at one and you should be focusing most of your time on the other. Maybe you have room to improve in both and you make an educated decision about what’s going to help you the most. I think that's critical and we shouldn't sort of overlook that step.
Then from there, it’s a matter of saying, “Okay. What do I want to improve?” If you want to improve your internal self-awareness, again, there are tons and tons and tons of tools, but one thing that our unicorns really universally reported doing that is so easy to incorporate into your life is something called the daily check-in. What they do basically is at the end of every day, whether it's driving home from the office, whether it’s sitting in bed before they go to sleep, they ask themselves essentially three questions. Number one, what went well today? Number two, what didn't go so well? Number three, what can I do to be smarter tomorrow?
What I loved about that was it sort of allows us to reflect in a mindful and curious way without starting to overthink some of those things in a way that leads us away from the truth about ourselves. That's one thing people can do for internal.
The suggestion I’d have if you think you need to improve your external self-awareness. The first thing you could you is have what I call a dinner of truth. This is actually an exercise that was developed by Austin communications professor, Dr. Josh Meisner, that he's been using this with his students for years and years and years. The way it works is you find someone who you want to improve your relationship with them and you believe that you have a solid relationship, but it could get even better. You invite them out to meal. I suggest dinner in case you want a nerve-defusing adult beverage, although it’s not required, and you sit down at dinner and you ask them, “What do I do that's most annoying to you?” Then you resist every temptation to defend or explain or disagree and you simply listen.
Just in general, in terms of our external self-awareness, I think we’re overly simplistic in the way we think about feedback. We assume that anybody gives us feedback, we should listen, and any feedback anyone gives us, we should act upon. Of course, it's not that simple. We don't always have to act on everything we hear, especially if the person who’s giving us that feedback might not have the best of intentions or they might not be comfortable telling us the real truth, the ugly truth as they see it, or maybe we get feedback about a skill that doesn't really matter to us, or we get feedback about a skill that we don't feel like we can improve no matter how hard we try. It's really a matter of having that self-awareness and the self-acceptance say, “What do I want to work on and what instead am I going to just be more open about?”
I tell a story in the book about a leader, an executive entrepreneur who started a bunch of companies who learn that he wasn't the best communicator. In fact, he was a terrible communicator, and he did all these research and basically concluded that he wasn't wired that way. But instead of letting himself off the hook, he now is more open about that with his team and he says, “This doesn't mean I don't care about you. Here's how I’m going to show you that.” That's just another tip I would give people to intelligently consume feedback just like we are going to intelligently consume the introspective methods that we use.
[0:34:20.8] MB: I want to dig deeper into feedback, but I also want to — I love the question; what do I do that's most annoying to you? I'm curious, are there other questions other than just focusing on annoyance? Is that too kind of narrowly focused in terms of getting a clear perspective?
[0:34:37.4] TE: Yes, and I think it’s not too narrowly focused. It’s one tool and one exercise that we can do. There a lot of people in my experience, just in my work and kind of getting the word out on this book who might not be fully aware of their strengths and what they bring to the table. A lot of us are overconfidence, but a lot of us by that same token don't fully appreciate our gifts. For them, if you feel like you’ve fallen that that category, I would probably say, “Instead of doing the dinner of truth, find friends that you really feel like you’ve got a strong relationship with and ask them a different question. Ask them, “Why are you friends with me?”
For both of those exercises, I wouldn't put anything in my book that I haven't personally done multiple times. Just like I learned from degenerative truth, I learned very new strengths that other people see in me that I frankly never even thought about before. So I think we can look at it from both of those angles and it's really a matter of saying, “Where could I stand to have the most growth?”
[0:35:47.6] MB: I think that the great question about cultivating or sort of understanding your strengths. One of the things that I've found is that often times when someone — I personally experienced this as well. When you’re really strong at something, it seems almost obvious to you it's almost hard to sort of get clear perspective that that's something you're good at as supposed to just something that people are good at in general and distinguishing between those two things.
[0:36:12.1] TE: I think that's so true. Imagine somebody who’s accidentally great at presenting, let’s say. They’re sort of built that way, that they’re an amazing public speaker. If they don’t know that that’s a defining strength of how they're showing up, it doesn't give them the ability to leverage that and utilize that help them be more successful. If I don't know that public speaking is a unique strength for me, I might not raise my hands when it comes time to volunteer for the board presentation. If I did, it would help me be even more successful. I think your point is a really excellent one.
[0:36:48.7] MB: Let's circle back to the concept of feedback. Tell me a little bit about — One of the things that we talk about a lot of the show as well is the idea that to be self-aware you need to be constantly getting information about your behavior, about your own thoughts, about your actions, etc. I completely agree at the same time that you have to be very cognizant of what the source of that information is.
[0:37:13.5] TE: That was another very surprising finding frankly from me in talking to our self-awareness unicorns. I expected that when we conducted these interviews with them, they would report, “Oh my gosh! I get feedback all the time. I get feedback from everyone I know at work and all of my family and the person behind me and the checkout line at the grocery store.” But we actually found the exact opposite. Most of our unicorns, almost all of our unicorns relied on just a handful of people that they actively got feedback from, and the two characteristics that almost all of those people had were as follows.
The first was the person was confident that that source of feedback really wanted them to be successful. Remember I said earlier, not all feedback is well intended. You have to be sure that somebody really has your back and they're giving you any feedback they're giving you in the spirit of your success. That’s not enough, right?
We also have to believe that they are going to tell us the good, the bad and the ugly. The first part is the person is loving, and the second person is they’re willing to be a critic if they need to. I call them loving critics. A lot of times people have one but not the other. Everybody has that coworker who just is negative about everything, who would be a great critic, but maybe who doesn't really want you to be that successful. You might have somebody in your life that just loves you and adores you but will never tell you that that haircut you got really doesn't do you any favors. And so the unicorns were very strategic and very discerning about who they got feedback from. In my opinion, that is at least 70% of the work in terms of getting feedback, is just being a laser-focused on who we listen to.
Another thing we learned was that they — Our unicorns didn't rely on other people to approach them with feedback, and this is supported by a lot of science. There was a really cool study from the 1960s, Dr. Rosen was one of the researchers, and basically they put people in a room and created a situation where a stranger, a participant in the study really should have given somebody else in the room some bad news. They sort of mocked it up. It was a crisis about their family, but the person who needed the bad news was a confederate of the researchers. They found that when the news was bad, almost no one told this person the truth, and they really needed to hear it in the situation they concocted.
From that, they called this phenomenon the mum effect. Our unicorns smartly never assumed that people would tell them anything. They never assumed that people would tell them what they're doing well. They never assumed that people would tell them what they weren’t doing well. Instead, they took it on themselves to get regular feedback on their own terms.
Kind of related to that, another thing I'd say is one person's feedback is not necessarily going to be something that's reflective of how all people see you. Especially if maybe you get feedback from that nasty coworker and you say, “Okay. I don't want to dismiss this outright, because maybe there's something valuable in it for me. I’m going to go talk to a couple of my loving critics and see if they see it too.” That way, if you can find a consistent pattern either in a strength or an area for development, that is going to give you more confidence that focusing on it will impact lots and lots of areas of your life.
[0:40:53.8] MB: How could we or how have you sort of found in your work to be — How can you open people up to feedback? Especially kind of bringing back the idea of the Dunning- Kruger effect, someone who doesn't understand their own lack of self-awareness, how kind of far off the mark they are and may be resists or doesn't want to hear feedback or criticism? How can you kind of open their ears so to speak?
[0:41:19.7] TE: That’s a question I get all the time, and I’ve gone back and forth on this and landed at a place that I think is the most reasonable place, which is to say that other people’s self-awareness journeys are not ours to navigate. What I mean by that is, it doesn't necessarily mean that we can't help other people, but it also means that we can't give them the motivation to get there if they don't have it.
I talked at the very beginning of this conversation about this people at work who just have absolutely no idea how they're coming across. You could, if you felt like it and you were willing to assume the risk, sit down with them and tell them all of these things, but because we have such well-honed defense mechanisms, if they are not feeling the pain or if they're not ready to do something differently, it's only going to make things worse in a lot of cases. They might resent you or they might think you're out to get them there.
There are a couple of situations that I talk about in the book where we can approach somebody very tentatively with feedback. Sometimes unaware people know that something is wrong, but they don't know that they’re a large part of the problem. Sometimes in those situations they might be genuinely curious about what's going on.
Maybe I interrupt people in the office all the time and I’m sort of noticing that I'm having prickly relationships with people. Maybe I turn to my coworker and I say, “Why is everybody so mean around here?” That might be an entry point to the conversation, but the other thing I’ll tell people is you have to be willing to assume the risk and you have to be willing to accept the worst case scenario and think about that. If this person is so unaware and if I truly want to take that risk, am I willing to accept what happens if things go really, really south? I think that's a judgment call. There are no hard and fast rules for that, but we should always, always,always, go into that with our eyes wide open.
[0:43:22.4] MB: What is one piece of homework that you would give for somebody listing to this show that kind of wants to take the first step towards self-awareness?
[0:43:30.8] TE: I think the easiest, highest payoff activity would actually be to take that insight quiz that I mentioned earlier. They can access it, it's at www.insight-quiz.com, and what I think is really valuable about it is it takes less than five minutes and it gives you a high-level picture of your internal and your external self-awareness. From there, that sort of opens up a whole new path and a whole new way to strategize about what you want to work on.
[0:44:00.4] MB: Perfect. We will make sure to include that quiz in the show notes. So listeners who are checking that out can definitely access it. I think that's a great tool. One of the questions I actually was thinking about asking you was; are there any kind of tried-and-true self-assessments that you can have someone take that sort of gauges their self-awareness? So I think that's a great resource.
[0:44:19.3] TE: That’s actually a subset, a 14 item subset of the larger, more comprehensive assessment that we've been researching and developing. So even though it's not your entirety of self-awareness, it's a very, very rigorously developed scientific tool.
[0:44:33.3] MB: Excellent. Tasha, where can people find you and the book and your work online?
[0:44:39.9] TE: I am not difficult to find online. They can connect with me on pretty much any social media, Tasha Eurich. If they want to learn more about the book and/or take the insight quiz, the overall book website is insight–book.com.
[0:44:54.8] MB: Awesome. Tasha, thank you so much for coming on the show and sharing all of your wisdom. We’re huge proponents of self-awareness on the show and I think that the strategies and insights you’ve shared today were super valuable.
[0:45:06.2] TE: Wonderful. Thank you so much for advancing that cause, it was really a pleasure.
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