Do you know people who are either too pushy or are pushovers and have no awareness of their behaviors? Many of us have limited insight into our communication style, personality, and flaws. A recent study from Columbia Business School by Ames and Wazlawek found that people seen as under-assertive or over-assertive think that they are appropriately assertive. This study, to be published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, also found that those who were communicating with correct assertiveness mistakenly thought they were perceived as pushing too hard. The study paired up developing professionals for mock negotiations over certain issues. The researchers concluded that many people are clueless as to how they come across to their counterparts and colleagues.
So why are people oblivious to their behaviors and others’ perceptions? In some cases people don’t pay attention to subtle or not so subtle cues from others. We can be so self-absorbed that we miss the nonverbal expressions or direct feedback from others. Maybe we don’t want to know what others think or we’d rather ignore others’ reactions so that we don’t have to change. Living in today’s technological world, those who may have had less face to face contact have developed limited social skills. Based on my experience many people would rather keep their head in the sand than acknowledge their inadequacies. Communication skills are no different. The obvious problem with unawareness is that we can alienate others, tolerate more than we should, and/or avoid necessary change and growth.
How do we raise our awareness? For starters, we need to find a trustworthy and reliable person who can be honest and direct with us. We also need to accept feedback without being defensive and justifying our actions. Asking for constructive criticism can be difficult, but this may help alleviate future pain and rejection. Sometimes those closest to you may not be the best resource but instead try relying on someone who can be objective and unbiased. Ask direct questions about the way you come across and the impact that you might have on others. Be receptive to the feedback and use it to make changes in yourself. Communication is a valuable skill and honing this capability will result in positive consequences. We are all clueless and confused at times, recognize it and do something about it.