Merge's Blog

Self-awareness: realizing that your inadvertent actions can send a wrong message

Office worker looking at a wall clockSelf-confidence is a critical component of emotional intelligence, and leaders need to always have the self-awareness to walk a fine line between confidence and arrogance.  But there are many other aspects to self-awareness as well, and a very important one is being alert to how your unintentional actions or behaviour can communicate a message you never intended.

Here’s one – have you ever glanced at your watch or at the clock during a conversation with someone else?  Chances are you meant no harm, you were just checking to make sure that you weren’t late for another meeting, or perhaps you just wanted to know how long before lunch.  But the inadvertent message you are sending, loud and clear, is that you have better things to do than talk to the person you are with, and that you are anxious to leave and get on with something else.  Even though this may be miles away from what you actually meant, the signal received by the other person is disrespect, and you come across as impatient and egotistical.  Is this really what you want your staff and managers to think about you?
So as leaders, it’s critical to be aware of how your actions are perceived by others.

Now be honest with yourself, are you guilty of doing exactly this?  I can tell you from personal experience that unless you’re paying attention, it’s very easy to not even realize that you are glancing over at that clock on the bottom right of your computer screen.  You may think that it’s not noticed, but it is.  Truth is, I am guilty as well (and I teach this stuff)!

I have one more example I experienced recently of how your (perhaps unintentional) actions or gestures can sabotage your credibility, and I’ll cover that in my next blog post, but in the meantime, what do you have to add to this list?  What actions or behaviours have you observed that demonstrate poor emotional intelligence and lack of self-awareness, and only serve to destroy the credibility of the person?  Please share by adding your comment below.

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