Communication is one of the most—if not the most—important skills you can develop as a leader. There are many communication techniques you can implement to grow your skills, but they can’t replace self-awareness. Developing high self-awareness will help you become a better communicator and leader.
Self-awareness is the ability to recognize what’s going on in our inner lives. It has three components:
- The ability to recognize the emotions you are feeling and how intense they are.
- Understanding what is happening in your body.
- Identifying and dealing with triggers.
Let’s look further at why self-awareness is key for communication.
Self-Awareness through Listening
Listening is a communication skill that few of us have. We live in a world full of distractions, so focusing 100% on listening is a unique and valued skill. By developing self-awareness in your listening skills, you can become a better communicator.
The first way to do this is by identifying listening blocks. This is anything that gets in the way of being a better listener. Some common ones include:
- Coming up with an answer before listening to the whole conversation.
- Over-identifying with the person (i.e., making it about you).
- Needing to “win” the conversation rather than just exploring the topic.
- Placating someone and shutting down disagreement.
By knowing which of these blocks you stumble over, you can develop self-awareness in listening and communicating better.
Self-Awareness through Body Language
The second area of growth is around your body language. How do you present yourself during a conversation? If you are comfortable and confident, you are likely to be present with open body language. If you’re nervous are anxious, you may be covering up or shrinking back.
Understanding your body language starts with understanding your emotions. This level of self-awareness is important, so you can tap into your inner world and ask, “how am I feeling right now in this conversation?”
Once you’ve tapped into your emotion, you can use that self-awareness to return to base. Base is your home position, where you are confident and open. The more self-aware you are, the easier it is to identify when you are off home base and need to return.
Understanding your Triggers
The third area of growth is by understanding your triggers. A trigger is something that provokes an emotional response from you that may be undesirable or inappropriate in the situation.
We all have triggers, and they are unique to our own situation and experiences. Triggers can cut down communication when we are not aware of them. Growing in self-awareness will help you identify your triggers and learn to course-correct when they come up.
Tips for Self-Awareness in Communication
Self-awareness is how we can learn to identify triggers, understand emotions, and tap into our bodies. Like most things, this takes some practice and effort. Here are three strategies you can use to develop your self-awareness:
- Do a body scan: Incorporate this 3–5-minute exercise into your daily routine. Sit somewhere comfortable, breathe, and scan through your body to see how you feel.
- Understand your communication style: Some people are forceful and direct; others are quieter and less direct. Some ask many questions; others like to empathize with all parties. Understanding how you naturally communicate can help you grow and adapt communication when needed.
- Practice mindfulness: Just breathe. Self-awareness has a lot to do with just sitting with yourself, in silence, and coming back to the breath. It helps you manage emotions and get in touch with how you are doing in that moment.
Self-awareness is a life-long journey. There is no point at which we have arrived, but always have something more to learn and uncover about our inner worlds. Developing self-awareness will make you a better communicator and leader. So, try out these tips today and start increasing your own self-awareness!
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Please feel free to pass it on to anyone whom you think might find it useful.