Know Thyself

knowthyself1

I have this coworker. He’s a decent guy. Hard worker. He often laments to me that even though he has a great job and is fairly attractive, he can’t seem to maintain a relationship for very long. He’s anxious to find someone he can spend his life with but usually after a few dates with a woman he’s interested in, she tells him she wants to date other people. He seems genuinely puzzled by this pattern. I know why women run screaming for the hills after a few dates. I just don’t know how to tell him. He has a personality quirk that is very off-putting, and he seems completely oblivious to it.

Somehow he never developed the ability to be introspective about himself. He never developed self-knowledge based on how people reacted to him. He missed the subtle social cues people give like changing the subject, breaking eye contact, turning their bodies away from him, that indicates they were uncomfortable with what he was saying or doing. He couldn’t recognize the negative effects his personality had on conversations he tried to have with other people. Because of this, he has developed a blind spot to self-knowledge. As a result, he has one failure after another as he tries to date and form relationships with women.

Self-knowledge refers to knowledge of your own tendencies of behavior or ways of being. It’s being aware of the parts of your personality that others may find annoying, bizarre, rude, embarrassing, etc. There is nothing wrong with embracing the parts of your personality that make you truly unique and special, but in the social dance we all participate in (especially when dating and forming relationships) some behaviors and quirks should be eliminated. Some people think their jokes are hilarious when they really aren’t. Some people monopolize a conversation. Some people think their distinctive style makes them unique when it doesn’t. Some people wear too much cologne. Some people wear too much makeup. Some people are arrogant. The list is endless.

Many of us develop self-knowledge as we wade through the tumultuous teenage years and into our twenties. We learn appropriate social interactions and how to present ourselves in a polished yet genuine way. However, we all suffer from blind spots to self-knowledge. This can be problematic when we are trying to find a companion and/or build a relationship with a SO.

If you have experienced a pattern of failed relationships or manage to get a couple dates out of a woman/man and then get politely brushed off, you may want to see if there are blind spots in your self-knowledge. If you are introspective and honest, you can do this on your own, but if you are truly clueless you may want to find some courage and solicit the help of coworkers or a past SO and ask for an “exit interview.” Be prepared to hear some things that might be painful. Truth can hurt, but it can also help you understand how you present yourself to others. If you solicit the help of an ex-, make sure they understand this conversation isn’t designed to get back together with them. Express to them your desire to understand how things went awry. After the conversation, spend some time journaling the information that was shared, how you feel about it, and what (if anything) you plan to do with that information.

During a similar conversation with my SO, I was given the feedback that I make people feel stupid when I talk. I never realized that that is how I came across. I was crushed and angry when I heard this feedback, but the more I pondered this information I realized that it was quite possibly true. I have been a teacher for over 20 years and part of that job requires me to be the authoritative voice in the room. That authoritative voice has become part of my personality, and slowly my classroom persona had crept into my social personality without me noticing it. I felt horrified that my interactions with others had become marred by this personality quirk I hadn’t been aware of until my SO brought it to my attention. Thankfully, I now have this self-knowledge and can be more sensitive to other’s feelings when I interact with them.

Research shows the average person tends to believe he or she is above average in many things. How can we all be above average? It’s statistically impossible! This just illustrates that many of us struggle to see ourselves accurately.  Every day we base decisions on how we perceive ourselves. When we base those decisions on flawed self-assessments, we run the risk of causing harm to ourselves or others. And, when we are trying to find our soul mate or building a life-long relationship with someone, overlooking our personality’s flaws can be fatal.

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