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introspection

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Step 4 - Recognize and Question Behavioral Patterns (again)

I'm currently finding the most difficult piece of this step is getting the balance between introspection and outside feedback. When I think I'm behaving one way, but it's coming across in another - who's right?

Behavior is driven by emotion, and we're not in complete conscious control of our emotions all the time. Some emotions are unconscious.

There are two "levels" of unconscious: one is pre-conscious, i.e. knowable through introspection and reflection. The other is sub-conscious, i.e. not even pondering about the affect will bring it up to awareness.

Clearly, introspection allows us to understand why and how we behave in certain situations, yet we may not be able to solve all the riddles. To recognize behavioral patterns, we have to first become aware of them. This may need outside stimulus. Like Sherlock's analysis of Watson, for example:

This is from the first episode, but by the second series, Watson isn't even using his cane anymore. In this case, outside stimulus (Sherlock) brought awareness to a behavior (relying on unnecessary cane) and Watson took some time to accept it (2 or 3 episodes) before changing his behavior (walking without a cane).

Philosophers like Descartes believed introspection was the be all and end all of self knowledge.

I think, therefore I am.

300 years later, Ryle posited that introspection is limited and (therefore) overrated; to obtain knowledge of the nature of the self we should take observable behavior into consideration.

When was the last time you acted out a conversation in front of a mirror before doing it in real life? 

Do you know how your face moves when you tell a fib? How you blush when you're self-conscious? How anger rises up through your body through clenched fists and jaws? Whom do you trust enough to ask and do a Sherlock on you, i.e. tell you how they observe your typical behavior?

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Step 1 - Get to know myself (again)

Pic Credit teachernz I first wrote about Getting to know myself back in 2008. Here's what I'd like to add: Personality Type and cultural preferences provide a nice framework to begin thinking about where some of my behaviors might come from. My cultural background explains some of what's important to me, and Type is a unique personal and professional development tool, helping me appreciate my own strengths and opportunities for growth, as well as appreciate those points in others.

I best identify with ENFJ preferences. I may not look like an ENFJ all the time, because in my job I'm often dealing with groups and paying attention to details, seeming like an ESFP. When I work from home, I'm quite comfortable spending hours alone, reading and writing online. But the pattern is there:

"mentoring, leading people to achieve their potential and become more of who they are." (Berens, Nardi, 2004)

The first thing I want to do when meeting old and new friends is connect. Holding a space for others is important to me, although I might get too excited and just start blabbering. Staying with myself without getting absorbed into other people's drama or take on their feelings as my own is a continuous conscious exercise. Dipping into a sea of knowing what's going to happen and how someone will react to a certain situation happens unconsciously. Yet when I try to pay attention to the vibe it may disappear. I love going for walks and doing Yoga or Zumba relaxes me; my body may be tired but my mind is usually alert after exercise.

I'm not sure how my extraverted Feeling and introverted Intuiting preferences were nurtured growing up. I remember lots of feeling bad for others and wanting to please everyone and fit in, often without success. At any given time I had maybe one or two "best" friends. Lots of acquaintances, but not many friends, at least by my definition. Still, I remember lending an ear and giving advice on many matters to many people. I remember making mistakes and seeking approval in many wrong places. I know I read a lot; my parents are still sorting out boxes upon boxes of books I left behind.

Growing up in my parents' house, realistic pragmatism (is there any other kind?) definitely dominated the everyday environment. On Hofstede's cultural dimensions, Germany scores high in the Uncertainty Avoidance Index. That means Germans like to know what happens and be prepared, avoiding uncertainty wherever we can. A big part of me wants to know what the future holds, but there are also examples in my past where I jumped in without knowing what was going to happen. None of my international moves were thoroughly planned in any way - that's why I like to share what I learned to save other expats the time and tears.

Flaggen_Still, I'm very German in my approach to communication - direct and straightforward, little to no beating around the bush. Swearwords? Not a problem. I appreciate a good rational argument, but may not be able to follow your logic. On Trompenaars' dimensions, I fall on the Universalist (the same rules apply to everyone) and Achievement (respect for what you've done, not who you are) sides. Competence and expertise are important to me. I couldn't stand it if anyone thought I was an impostor. Over time, my opinion of punctuality has been taken over by a slight mediterranean influence - but I'll still let you know when I'm running late. Keeping people waiting without even the courtesy of a call or text message would be disrespectful.

Unfortunately, self-examination is not always a helpful tool when you really want to get to know yourself. I've recently asked former and current colleagues and friends to choose some adjectives (based on Linda Berens' Interaction Styles) to describe me, and it's interesting and challenging to recognize I may not appear to others as I do to myself. I still think it's a great exercise to engage in from time to time - getting to know yourself all over again.

 

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