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Saturday / September 23

Being Self-Aware and Other-Focused

I was at a conference (surprise) this past week and I was in a moment of whiny-ness (again, not a surprise).  I was frustrated at the actions (actually inactions) of a colleague.  My friend said to me, “Jen, not everything is about you.” A smack of reality yet again.

It isn’t about us. A lot of the time. And yet, I would stretch our thinking to suggest that we do need to think about ourselves more often AND do so in the spirit of self-awareness. This is not a ‘spin’ to suggest to you to become self-absorbed, but rather more self-aware – big difference.

I have been working with colleagues outside the USA lately, as well as in regions which are more conservative religiously and politically than I am. The work has asked me to become more self-aware. Who am I? What are the parts of my identity I don’t truly study, but instead take for granted as truth when that might not be the case? Through what filter of perception I am seeing the actions of others? Am I judging situations blindly based on my upbringing? Is it getting in the way of communicating effectively? Self-awareness of my gender, race, regional affiliation, culture, and so, so many other parts of myself impacts my ability to be impactful and it does so in a HUGE way.

One gentleman in a recent workshop listened to my assertion that we need to ‘know thyself and learn to understand others’ – to become more allocentric and other-focused. His comment was, “I don’t need to know others beyond their position, their job expectations, and their role. What matters is what the organization is to do and that we do our job. Don’t really need to know anything else about with whom I work.”  Ouch.

I too believe in clarifying expectations and follow through. In responsibility and clarity. Accountability for professional expectations matters. So does care for the individual.

Do you know yourself? Your triggers? Your areas of threat? Do you know what your strengths are? Your learning edges? Your learning style? How your upbringing affects what you currently value? We cannot judge ourselves by our intentions and others simply on their actions. They too have insecurities and fears. Concerns and worries. An upbringing different from our own. Needs and wants they might not overtly articulate.

Again, it isn’t all about you, but it is essential that you know yourself because you show up at work everyday with bias, belief and unspoken bottom lines. We need to also understand what drives our colleagues and be compassionate and humane.

So I will keep ‘dropping out of the sky’ and intentionally place myself in cities in which I have not been, and go outside my comfort zone to push my thinking. There is an urgency to the empathy we need to build in this world. For both the inner and outer peace we all need. By the time this goes to print, an election will have taken place in the USA. At this point, self-awareness and allocentrism are both critical. Deep breaths, everyone.

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Jennifer Abrams is an international educational and communications consultant who trains and coaches teachers, administrators and others on successful instructional practices, new teacher support, supervision and evaluation, generational savvy, having hard conversations and effective collaboration skills. She is the author of Having Hard Conversations, Hard Conversations Unpacked, and The Multigenerational Workplace.

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  • I agree that it is always beneficial to look at all sides of an issue. We should never think that we have it all figured out and that no other opinions are of value. If we surround ourselves with only like-thinkers, what are we learning? Everyone should remain open to discussions and maybe even agree to disagree. It is not my job to change anyone’s mind but hopeful give them something to think about and vice versa.

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