Sunday, 18 September 2016

Blind Spot Spotting

I have just returned from a week's stint with my aging mother. Yes, I know - I desire to be nominated as a Saint to rival the likes of Helen Keller and Mother Teresa.    I made a special effort as she was having her 82nd  birthday and she isn't getting any younger.  In fact, she is going blind from an eye condition called glaucoma. My mother has always been an active outdoor type and has continued to play tennis several days per week to this very day.  Accepting the gradual  deterioration of her sight has meant she has had to come to terms with the gradual deterioration of her performance and the longevity of her tennis playing days. I must say I am proud of the way she is adjusting to this change, and making plans with friends to join a crochet team - a game she has never played.  I think this is a brave move as my mother loves to be in control and the expert - being the newby in the group and a beginner will definitely be a big adjustment for her.

While my mother has reflected on the implications of her eye condition, acknowledged the need to make adjustments and has started to plan ahead to implement the changes she needs to make she has, like the rest of us, she also suffers from "blind spots".  This condition does not relate to the optical nerve on the retina or a visual obstruction in the cars rear view mirror. I'm referring to psychological blind spots - aspects of her personalities that are hidden from her view or she does not want to own. These include but are not limited to - annoying habits like interrupting or talking over the top of me, having to always have the final word and worse of all always having to be 'right'.  They also include a deeper fear of getting old and dependent and dying which I think are too threatening for her to acknowledge. I'm pretty sure she is unaware of these behaviours, but they drive me and my siblings crazy, and annoy the crap out of her fellow tennis players and friends.  

So do you know what your blind spots are? Who are you driving up the wall? Who is tearing their hair out as you leave the room?

Do any of these ring a bell with you? If you can tick any of these off then perhaps that's what ticking off your friends and loved ones too.   

  1. Harsh judgments of others' behavior may reveal a personal insecurity - for example, that highly ambitious co-worker may especially irritate you because of your own unexpressed ambitions. Blind spots in these cases need not be objectively negative traits, just traits that are experienced as personally shameful or unacceptable.
  2. Just as extreme negative reactions to a trait in others might suggest the presence of that trait in onesself, extremely positive attitudes or behaviors may suggest a lack, or a feared lack, of a desired trait. For example, being overly generous to counter the view that you are a scrooge.
  3. You keep choosing friends and lovers that have the same personality traits - look and sound the same but just have different names - eg. always choose lovers who are argumentive or fiends who are compliant.
  4.  You blame bad luck to justify repeated failure or lack of progress - loose your job and blame economic down turn
  5. People's description of your personality does not fit with your own self image. You see yourself as an opinionated while your fiends see you as dominating the conversation. 

I think this diagram is pretty well self explanatory - quadrant 1 is what we know about ourselves; quadrant 2 is our blind spot (we don't know but others do); quadrant 3 is Known to us but we don't share with others; and Quadrant 4 is Unknown to self and others.  If you like to read more then check out the psychology of self awareness and blind spots.

Are you ready for a challenge - Remove the rose tinted glasses and uncover your blind spots?  

A heads up - It's not going to easy and more than likely it's gonna hurt. So be prepared.

As I stated in the introduction, I am aware of my mother's blind spots but she's not. The Johari Window diagram suggests that we seek feedback to reduce our blind spots.   Asking others for feedback can be a risky and scary process.  Risky because we don't know what people are going to say and scary because we might not like what we hear. so before you rush out asking people to give you an honest critique of your personality or your short comings I suggest you:

  • Be Thankful - Remember you are asking them for the feedback so be thankful (even if you feel like ringing the other persons neck). 
  • Accept and Reflect - Don't argue or try and change the person's mind - tuck the information away to reflect on later. You can then decide if the feedback was useful or not.
  • Dismiss feedback that is Useless - Some people may have trouble being honest - worried they will offend.  Others may take the opportunity to be brutal and even nasty.  So be prepared to deal with both ends of the spectrum. 

Activity: Blind Spot Spotting

  1. Ask a close friend or loved one for feedback: "Is there anything about me -habits, traits, behaviours - that you can see but you think I am unaware of?"   For example last week in a Mastermind meeting a colleague told me that I tend to over intellectualise.  Remember to thank the person for their honesty.
  2. Make a note of the feedback in your journal.  
  3. Time to be brave and seek feedback a bit further afield.  For a week ask a different person each day for "blind spot spotting." Each day record the information in your journal.
  4. At the end of the week it is time to review all the data. Dismiss any feedback that is non specific, vague or nasty. 
  5. Time to review the useful feedback - that is data that is specific, focused and able to be acted upon.  Reflect upon each statement without judgement or 'dramatics'.  What is the veracity of the statements? What are the implications?  How can I become more aware and make necessary changes?  
  6. Dig for the gold in the feedback and you will uncover the blind spots that are blocking your internal/external view.
I'm on my way to uncovering some of my blind spots - and I can say I am surprised by a few of them.  Thanks for reading and look forward to hearing the feedback from your Blind spot Spotting research.