Knowing Yourself through Knowing Others
by Caitlin Morris
Who doesn’t love a good personality test? You get to be introspective and answer questions about your preferences and perspectives. You can do a SWOT analysis (focuses on strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) to realign your personal strategy and you can take a deep dive to find ways to bolster your perceived weaknesses.
While these analyses help us mature and learn about our unique qualities, they can become too much of a good thing. The questions can lead to anxiety over choosing the “right” answer, and analyzing small details of broad personality groups can lead to narcissism and isolation. We begin to miss the forest for the trees, and our scope narrows. The deep dive into “knowing yourself” can also lead to a heightened sense of how different you think you may be from others.
A more impactful and positive way to know yourself is through meaningful dialogue with those you interact with on a daily basis. This is more inclusive and celebrates unity in diversity. Are you extroverted and outgoing? Then add value by welcoming prospective clients and onboarding new hires. Do you wear a watch for the utility, not just the design? Then keep the strategy meeting on task. Most people do not want to go off on tangents, and NO ONE wants the meeting to go over the allotted time. In this sense, truly knowing yourself means stepping out of your mind and ego to get to know how you relate to your environment, your coworkers, and your society.
So let’s take a different angle to knowing yourself, one that is broader, forward thinking, and proactive. Instead of stewing over whether you are an extrovert or an introvert, make an effort to know and understand someone else. Grab actual lunch (e.g. not at your desk) with your coworker and listen to and support their goals. Be patient…like really patient with someone who has a very different communication style than you. Learn and practice empathy so you know how to relate to someone who isn’t (GASP) culturally similar to you and your friends.
Finally, know how much of a positive impact you make on others at work. Maybe your position in auditing or analytics is perceived as difficult and complex to others. You are a great match for your company, and your expertise erases their weaknesses and compliments their strengths. So often we focus negatively on ourselves and on what is lacking. Instead, know yourself through adding value to your environment and elevating your group to be exceptional.
Caitlin Morris, MBA, is an Analyst at Scripps Networks Interactive.