You may be the smartest cookie in town but it is pointless if people can’t stand being around you. Disruptive thinking, curiosity and courage may well be the traits of the future but not at the cost of classic, vanilla yet indispensable leadership qualities. Much as we’d like to fight it, EQ still rules the roost. We live in a high stress environment and it definitely doesn’t pay to be a contributor to it. Therefore, if you have poor people and social skills, 2018 is finally the year to accept and do something about it.
The easiest way to recognize the need for change is when the feedback is loud and resonates from multiple sources but at that stage, some damage has already been done. It is a smarter choice to actively invest in self-awareness skills. Unfortunately, these aren’t skills that we are taught at any point of time. It a skill that everyone is just going to have to learn themselves.
I can’t tell you how to be a pro at it but I definitely can help you start since I travelled down the path not so long ago.
- Begin by seeking feedback. Don’t be afraid to walk up to the people you deal with in everyday life both at work and at home. Ask them how they feel about interacting with you. Don’t bully them into providing feedback but feed it into conversations. It will take some effort. People are not used to being asked for feedback and may not be able to come up with an answer immediately. Give them time. More importantly, help them understand the genuineness of the request.
- Be truly open to listening to the feedback. Often, our first reaction is to dismiss it or justify. This only discourages the feedback provider. Instead, check your urge to react. Accept the feedback for what it is. They are honestly telling you about how they feel and that deserves merit. Too often people will give feedback about you to everyone else. If they are telling you instead of others, they are one of the greatest people you will ever meet. I used to attend a Meetup for writers (and 5 years hence, it still runs regularly. Amen.) We were banned from providing justifications in the room. You were to read your piece, have it critiqued and listen. It was up to you what you did with the feedback. You could ask for clarifications but never were you allowed to justify why you wrote what you did. It works the same way with receiving feedback on everything else in life.
- Self-reflection: This goes hand in hand with self-awareness. You should have known this term would sneak in somewhere. After all, what good is feedback if you don’t reflect on it? Now, I am a nerd and I go all out on this. I do a monthly review, then a half-yearly review and a year-end review with self. Outside of these formal reviews, I am in a state of constant reflection after every less than ideal conversation. You don’t have to do it all. If you wish to, go ahead. If not, figure what interval and format works for you. The year-end, of course, is a perfect time irrespective of when else you do this.
- Headspace: I have raved about this particular app in the past. There are innumerable more available now. I have moved on from Headspace and now use one of the guided meditation skills available on my Amazon Echo. Pick your favorite and stick to it. There are innumerable benefits that come from giving yourself just those 5 – 10 minutes. If you don’t believe me, watch this.
Self-awareness and associated change isn’t a quick returns program. Much like changing the culture of an organization, this takes long-term commitment and shows results after 3-6 months of sustained effort. In addition, you cannot stop once you see progress. Compare it to the effort involved in dropping a few inches off your waist. It takes months to show visible difference and once you get there, you can’t return to binge eating and slacking off exercise while maintaining the results. So go ahead and use these tools and techniques. There is never a better time to embark on your journey to change than at the cusp of the New Year. Good luck!