Self-Awareness and the Importance of Feedback

It comes as no sur­prise to hear that we are poor at per­ceiv­ing how oth­ers view us and are poor at recog­nising the true per­son­al­ity traits of those we observe, but it’s the extent to which this is true and meth­ods we can use to over­come these ‘per­son­al­ity blind spots’ that I find inter­est­ing.

When people are asked how long they think their romantic rela­tion­ship will last, they’re not very good at estim­at­ing the right answer. Their friends, it turns out, fare far bet­ter. But if you ask people how sat­is­fied they are in a rela­tion­ship, their rat­ings accur­ately pre­dict how long they’ll stay togeth­er. In many cases, we have the neces­sary inform­a­tion to under­stand things as they are—but our blind spots don’t allow us to take it into account.

After look­ing at some of our biases that make this so (e.g. the illu­sion of trans­par­ency and the spot­light effect) and what traits we are able to dis­cern in ourselves and in oth­ers with some accur­acy, the art­icle goes on to sug­gest that the best way to learn more about ourselves is to soli­cit feed­back.

How you’re seen does mat­ter. Social judg­ment forms the basis for social inter­ac­tion itself. Almost every decision oth­ers make about you, from pro­mo­tions to friend­ships to mar­riages, is based on how people see you. So even if you nev­er learn what you’re really like, learn­ing how oth­ers per­ceive you is a worth­while goal.

The solu­tion is ask­ing oth­ers what they see. The best way to do this is to soli­cit their opin­ions directly—though just ask­ing your mom won’t cut it. You’ll need to get feed­back from mul­tiple people—your friends, cowork­ers, fam­ily, and, if you can, your enemies. Offer the cloak of anonym­ity without which they wouldn’t dare share the bru­tal truth.