Deep self-knowledge -- an awareness of our own thoughts, feelings, behavior, and motivations -- is one of the cornerstones of thoughtful leadership, yet it is often neglected. In the rush of everyday work life, with its cascading opportunities and challenges, we can easily forget to keep our "selves" in mind. Yet, whether you pay conscious attention to your self or not, you are the person driving everything you do. Being aware of what is driving you and how you are showing up to others is especially important in sticky situations -- whether it be a conflict with a coworker, a disagreement with your partner at home, or a misunderstanding with a friend. We can become so reactive and responsive to the other people we are tangling with that we don't examine what's going on with our own selves.
Here are five questions to increase your self awareness when things get stressful. To use them, you first need to acknowledge that you are in a sticky situation and decide to step outside of the mess for a minute. Once you do that, take a deep breath and consider the following:
How is this situation exposing my limitations to myself or others?
What underlying beliefs or values are influencing my experience of this situation?
What effect am I having on others?
What's going on in my body right now (pulse, breathing, muscle tension, how I'm sitting/standing)?
What is my role in this situation?
(update: see a great 6th question in the comments - and add your own!)
These questions matter, of course, because the only person one can truly change is oneself. In sticky situations, our focus is often squarely on the other person -- what they are doing, saying, and thinking. By focusing on yourself for even a few minutes, you will be able to reapproach the situation with greater clarity, calm and insight. Give it a try.
What questions do you ask yourself when you are in a sticky situation?