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.