Professional Skills: Self-Talk for Building Self-Awareness

Posted by Bridget Beirne
September 4, 2012

When it comes to professional skills, the importance of self-awareness can't be over-professional skills 6 resized 600emphasized.

You know the people who are lacking in that arena- the ones who meander down the center of the sidewalk, ignoring everyone around them. Or the ones that burst into a meeting in progress without taking note of their obviously occupied colleagues. Or the ones who make the comment that is just not appropriate at the time. All of these folks demonstrate a lack of self-awareness that we all may occasionally exhibit. (Hey, nobody’s perfect!) How can we build our self-awareness and avoid being “those people”?

Simply put, self-awareness is the ability to judge and interpret our actions, responses, and emotions, as well as those of the people around us. It is what keeps us from telling jokes when humor is not appropriate, needlessly insulting a colleague, or blowing up in a fit of rage at the office.  Asking ourselves some simple questions can help in our quest to develop a greater sense of self-awareness. Here are some situations where a little self-talk* can help:

1)      Good morning, starshine!: Everyone reacts differently to the start of their day in the office. One person’s perky morning attitude might be another one’s nightmare, or vice versa. Try to respect those people who may need a quiet start to the day, and acknowledge the fact that for some, morning is the time to shine. When approaching a colleague over that first cup of coffee, ask yourself: “What tone would be most appropriate for this discussion? Should this be handled now or later?” Your coworkers will thank you for taking their needs into consideration.

2)      The Midday Meeting:  A last minute meeting has been called. You are unsure as to whether it is a good news or bad news situation. When you enter the meeting space, try to “take the temperature” of the room.  Take a moment to look around and ask yourself: “What is the overwhelming “feel” of the room? What is the body language of my colleagues telling me? Are people smiling and laughing, or skulking and yelling?”  This will help you avoid being the person who takes things too seriously or not seriously enough.

3)      Did you hear the one about..?:  Obviously, not every business encounter is all work and no play. However, even in a social situation, conversation should not be a free-for-all. Should you find yourself asking: “Is it appropriate for me to make this comment/ tell this joke/ share this story?”, chances are it’s not.  Take that self-talk as a sign that you should save that commentary for your personal life.  No one wants to be tagged as the person who can’t find the lines of decorum.  As Jiminy Cricket said, let your conscience be your guide.

*Bear in mind, we are talking about SILENT self–talk. Asking these questions out loud might defeat the purpose….


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