Monday, May 26, 2014

The Good and the Bad of Knowing Yourself Too Well

Have you ever noticed how much easier it is to critique or coach someone other than ourselves? Perhaps the adage Familiarity breeds contempt best describes this challenge.  While most people would say that knowing ourselves too well becomes a weakness (which I agree), I would add that it can also be a strength if we can slip on a pair of objective lens from time to time.
Let me explain.

There's a reason the plumber's spigot has a drip and the mechanic's car has a clink in it.  When we see the same things everyday, they become part of our landscape.  We become blind to what others see easily. This is why a REALTOR will give a seller a to-do list to the surprised homeowner before the home is ready to show. The homeowner thought it was ready to list. This is why a career consultant has to ask us fifty questions before we articulate our skills.

So this is a huge challenge because we learn to settle for less than the best. Whether we're dealing with housework, lawn maintenance, exercise, personal growth, or healthy diet planning, we struggle with seeing our blind spots.

The flip side of this is the good news.

Many of us have trouble identifying our strengths, skills, and abilities.  The term Tacit Knowledge refers to the skills and competencies that we perform without even realizing we are doing them.  We have mastered them to the point of being rote. Quite often we see this when a veteran teacher, mechanic, engineer or physician attempts to explain a process to someone who is brand new to the skill. At that point, the person with experience either grows extremely frustrated or realizes the steps in the process that she or he has learned so well that they had otherwise become invisible.

So here's the challenge: We have to learn to take a step away from ourselves and our surroundings long enough to objectively assess ourselves. What areas do we need to improve? What areas need attention? (That's the weakness.) What skills have I taken for granted?  What can I do that others struggle with? (That's the strength.)

If you're struggling with objectively assessing yourself, ask someone your trust and respect to help.

Do you have other tips for personal development?