Wouldn’t it be great if we were all so finely tuned into other people that we were immediately aware of the impact our words, gestures and behaviors had on them?
How would it change our behavior if we had this capability?
How might it increase our influence?
How would it help to overcome misunderstandings?
How would it help to build stronger relationships?
I believe that increased impact awareness is a good thing and positively informs all of the above.
What makes the difference, however, is not the Awareness alone, but the degree to which we Care.
I’ve worked with many people who appear to have a well-developed sense of who they are, what they stand for and how they impact people around them. And yet, far from positively informing their behaviour or interactions, they seem not to care about how it impacts on others.
We tend to write these people off because that’s easier than making ourselves engage with them. We might categorize them as bad, psychotic, narcissistic, sociopaths, stupid, or just plain evil.
But how true is it that they don’t care? Surely they care about something?
We are complex people, trying to make our way in the world which sometimes feels hostile. It’s easy to become wrapped up in ourselves, focus on number-one, and walk away from the responsibility of other people’s sensibilities. So, it’s perhaps less that they don’t care, and more that they haven’t room in the crowded space that they occupy to care about anyone other than themselves.
People who are comfortable with themselves, content with their lives and buoyed by a set of values (or a faith) that inspires them can be the most generous-hearted and giving of people. They have a surplus which they are pleased to share. People who are struggling to achieve, constrained by limiting beliefs, and who feel threatened by the world have a deficit which can show itself as isolation, selfishness and insensitivity.
In the Bar-On Emotional Intelligence tool,
Some people go too far the other way: they appear to care too much. They suppress their own needs to a dangerous extent, pouring all their energies into caring for and helping others; even if this help is neither asked for nor welcomed. They allow themselves to become acolytes: people who don’t exist in their own right and have no intrinsic value except in relation to the people they serve. They might feel obligated to behave in this way, supported by deeply held beliefs that doing anything for themselves is a selfish act. They pick up signals (often inaccurately) about what people want and need and feel, and are spurred on by an overwhelming urge to rescue; which mostly succeeds in forcing other people into a victim mode.
What I have concluded from all this is:
Having the ability to focus on others, see their needs and recognize the true impact we have on them is a powerful tool if supplemented with the right amount of Caring.
It’s hard to truly care for others if we don’t care for ourselves. It shouldn’t be either/or.
Awareness of Others is most beneficial when complemented with Self-Awareness and feelings of safety.
Branding people as ‘mad, bad and dangerous to know’; or ‘suckers’ doesn’t really help and probably says more about me than it does about them.