Making change happen WITHOUT awareness is hard. On our own, the real energy is spent within each one of us, to make a change. Or thinking about why we need to change. Or how we need to change. That’s a big struggle which can be exhausting! I call this “push forward change” – pushing to make the change happen – aka – the hard way. Many try this approach to only give up because it’s just too much work to make the change.
So what’s the alternative? How does one ensure that the path to awareness is not so tiring that we give up – rather it is so enlightening that we transform like a caterpillar into a butterfly, we change seamlessly, without the pain.
I like to take a different approach to change with my clients. We focus on their “blind spot,” that place we all have where we cannot clearly see ourselves, all by ourselves. It’s something that has been appreciated by every client of mine, bringing sight to their “blind spot” – and it’s worked wonderfully well every time.
Simply put, we typically need help to create a new sense of awareness – that “Ah Ha” moment which allows us to shift our thinking. This is when the “pulled forward” approach to change happens allowing us to be pulled and easily flow into the change we desire. When awareness is created first, you’ll see how much easier change occurs.
This brilliant article written by Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. asks you to be a little vulnerable and take a risk by asking others (friends or trusted sources of course) for their perspective of you. Yes, it takes courage, but the payoff can be dramatic and immediate. Just the experience of this exercise can strengthen your communication skills and boost your Emotional IQ leading to stronger and more satisfying relationships.
Read on for Dr. Ekroth’s thought provoking exercise.
Without Awareness There is No Change
By Dr Conversation - Loren Ekroth, Ph.D.
We are bound by our habits, and they are almost always out of our awareness. Unless someone draws our attention to a habit, we don’t notice it. Your mother may have told you sternly, “Don’t talk with your mouth full”. Made aware, you eventually swallowed your food before speaking up.
However, most of your friends and co-workers don’t tell you about your troublesome conversation habits. Why not? They don’t want to hurt your feelings and get you mad at them. If you have a particularly egregious habit, like taking over a conversation, you may be embarrassed to be told of it. (Also, they don’t want you telling them about their own bad habits with a “You, too!” response.)
Even highly-trained psychiatrists were surprised to discover some problematic communication habits they exhibited when they viewed videos of their behavior during a consulting session. Like fidgeting or looking impatient or frustrated. “Wow, I had no idea I was doing that,” some said.
The classic graphic known as the “Johari Window” is a useful tool for interpersonal communication. We are aware if certain things about ourselves and unaware of others. The upper right quadrant below is called the “blind spot” area we aren’t aware of. Sometimes it’s called the “bad breath” area that even our best friends may not tell us about because it’s embarrassing. So that might be the province of a doctor or dentist.
Known to self Not known to self
Top athletes have coaches to tell them what they can change. Professional musicians take master classes. Devotees of personal development participate in group therapy to learn how their behavior affects others. All of these folks invite feedback to learn about their blind spots. Only then can they make changes.
Most of you are very good at seeing other people’s blind spots, things that they do or ways that they behave about which they are not aware. You could write a long list of your friends’ blind spots. But would you ever say it to them? No, because it’s one of the most difficult things to do, to bring someone to see that they’re doing something that they’re not aware of. People are terrified of this. Like ripping a bandage off a tender wound.
But what we rarely think about is the possibility that we have just as many blind spots as other people do.
How to Become More Aware:
1. Record yourself talking to another person. Video is best, audio can be helpful. Then view or listen to your conversation behavior. Surprised? Probably. Make notes of what you observe that reduces your effectiveness. (Like “talking very fast.”)
2. Buddy up with a good friend who also wants to get feedback. Ask that friend 3 questions:
1. When I’m talking, what do I do that helps the conversation?
2. When I’m talking, what do I do that gets in the way?
3. What changes, if any, would you recommend?
Then you answer the same questions for your friend.
Loren Ekroth, Ph.D. is a specialist in human communication and a national expert on conversation for business and social life. His articles and programs strengthen critical communication skills. Complimentary weekly newsletter on his resource website,
How courageous are you? Just imagine the changes you can make in other areas of your life just by applying this model!
Tina Elliot, MBA, PCC
Professional Certified Coach