Benjamin Franklin said it best: “There are three things extremely hard—steel, a diamond, and to know one’s self.”
Really knowing yourself requires genuine insight and often takes years to do. Even then, all we have is a partial picture. As a human being, you are deeply complex and constantly changing from experiences and the world around you.
Knowing the many facets of yourself is a critical pursuit. And self contemplation only goes so far. So we have to rely on others to be honest with us if we’re going to gain deep insight. Insight beyond the obvious.
Our initial steps in this regard might be to simply ask for feedback. Formal or informal. It takes some courage to ask others what they think about us.
These evaluations and judgments can tell us a lot about ourselves; however, the accuracy of what we learn depends heavily on the honesty and candidness of those offering the feedback. The truth is, people don’t like to tell us what they really think. Especially those who have to suffer through our reactions to their honesty. Short of hiring a third party to gather feedback with a little more honesty, how can we learn more?
The best leaders know the secret step in this process — observation. By watching how others respond to what we say and do, we cut through the red tape of getting candid feedback. We learn without the filter of politeness. People may hide their perceptions, but they are lousy at masking their reactions.
Scan others for clues about you. This is something you can do every day and all day long. How do people look at you? What do they say to you? How do they respond to you? When do they ignore you? How do they treat you? When do they shut up around you? Be sure to take notes. Remember the wise words of physicist and philosopher Richard Feynman: “The first principle is that you must not fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool.”