Dealing with Clueless People
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I’m fortunate to have many people in my life who are acutely self-aware. They are thoughtful, kind, sensitive and nurturing.
Yet, I routinely encounter someone who is clueless. This can range from the car salesman who said this to my wife and I: “If we agree on a price, how quickly can you write a check,” to a software vendor on a Zoom call who spoke non-stop for almost an hour, using a pitch deck consisting of many text-dense PowerPoint slides. At the end of his presentation, he asked if I had any questions. My mind was so numb from boredom, I couldn’t come up with any.
He didn’t make the sale.
The zenith of self-deception was the dental hygienist who regaled me with her political opinions while I was unable to respond.
I switched dentists.
Self-deception about self-awareness
We may believe we’re acutely self-aware. This makes sense. Why would anyone electively lack self-awareness?
Yet, there’s evidence our self-confidence about our level of self-awareness is misplaced.
One study found that co-workers had a more accurate perception of personality traits (almost twice as accurate) than those who self-reported.
There’s evidence (discussed in this article by psychologist Adam Grant) that we tend to overestimate our intelligence, our generosity and our objectivity.
We have a lot of work to do to achieve high levels of self-awareness.
A worthy goal
Becoming more self-aware is a worthy goal, with ramifications far beyond what you might imagine.
Self-awareness has these obvious benefits:
- It helps you regulate your emotions.
- You’ll communicate better.
- You’ll make better decisions.
- Your relationships will improve.
- You’ll be happier.
- You’ll be more confident.
- You’ll be a better leader, with improved perspective.
These traits will make you a better, more successful, financial advisor.
A recent study provides additional support for the benefits of self-reflection. It found that self-reflection can reduce dementia. You read that right.
According to the lead author, Harriet Demitz-King, “there is a growing body of evidence finding that positive psychological factors, such as purpose in life and conscientiousness, may reduce the risk of dementia.”
The study found other benefits, including improved cognition and better recovery from depression.
Other studies have shown that repetitive negative thinking may increase the risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
How to increase self-reflection
According to a prominent executive coach, the hardest leaders to coach are “those who won’t reflect on themselves.”
There are many reasons why we don’t engage in self-refection. They include a lack of understanding of or dislike of the process, feeling unsatisfied by the results, having a bias towards action and not seeing the benefit.
In this insightful article published in the Harvard Business Review, Jennifer Porter, a partner in a leadership and team-building firm, had some tips to help overcome these obstacles.
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She suggested identifying important questions (like how you might be contributing negatively to your least enjoyable relationship at work), keeping a journal or conversing with a trusted colleague, scheduling time for self-reflection, starting by allocating a small period of time to self-reflection and asking for help from a coach or therapist.
I follow a different path. I ask my wife and others for input. I make this type of inquiry: From “1”-“10”, where do I rank on the thoughtfulness scale? How about sensitivity? How can I improve?
The answers aren’t always what I hoped for, but asking the question provides valuable information.
It’s essential data for self-reflection.
Dan trains executives and employees in the lessons based on the research on his latest book, Ask: How to Relate to Anyone. His online course, Ask: Increase Your Sales. Deepen Your Relationships, is currently available.