Episode 122: Becoming Self-Aware

Do you ever wish you made a better first impression? How about gaining more respect for your conduct in meetings? In this episode, Jimmy and Lori share thoughts on how to become more self-aware.

Episode Keys:

  • How you can be the most influential person in a room.
  • Why you must master self-awareness to earn respect and attract success.
  • Lori’s advice in “reading the room”!
  • The 3 factors of self-consciousness.
  • How to structure meetings to help you give your team the most power to reach success.

Podcast Transcription

JW: Oh man, I’ll tell you what, when other people give tell opinions that you don’t even want to hear, but they give them to you anyway. Oh man, those kinds of people just wear me out. Oh, wait a minute. We’re live! Hey, hey, this is Jimmy Williams! Good morning, Live a Life By Design, your Monday morning moments of motivation just to helping you live the bigger, better, and bolder life that you so deserve. I gotta be honest with you. You probably heard the comments before we opened the show. I got to start listening for these mics. They’re hot before I believe they are. So that comment was basically this: am I really being self aware? Now I hear what you’re thinking out there, folks, how can this guy with such a big personality be self-aware? You probably imagine that I bulldoze my way into meetings and that I make sure my point is taken no matter who’s in the room. Well I used to, but today we’re going to have some fun. We’re going to talk about self-awareness and I’m going to have some special cohost join me here in just a moment. But before we get there, I want to ask you to think about yourself today, this early Monday morning, and how things may have happened in the last few days or last week that you found yourself not too self-aware, that maybe you could have done something better, could have acted in a different manner, perhaps even utilized the different personality trait, the results, something little bit better for the other team or party. Now, what type of personality do you exhibit around your family? Is it a different one than around your friends? Or even better, how about around your coworkers today? Today we’ll explore one of the most transformative aspects of you being a better leader, parent, coworker, whatever role you play in life, because we always have room to improve. Steve Jobs – I love Steve jobs from a personality perspective, as well as a leader. He had such quotes as, “I don’t come to work because I get to, I come to work because I want to.” See the difference? He is very self-aware of where his talents and passions lie, and he created a wonderful company we all know today as Apple. So before we jump in on this most interesting topic to me, I am excited to have with me today, I call her the co-host with the most, my friend, Lori Few. Glad to have you, Lori!

LF: Good morning! I have to say, I feel like you might’ve picked this topic because you’re trying to secretly tell me something without telling me something.

JW: I’m very aware.

LF: Like, “Maybe Lori needs to be more self-aware.” I mean, this is going to be very interesting topic this morning, ladies and gentlemen, because I’m not so sure. I feel like it’s been the bait and switch. Maybe, maybe this is Jimmy’s public way of telling me Lori, you need to check yourself. Oh, I don’t know. We’ll see.

JW: Let’s just say folks, you get the unvarnished truth here on Live a Life By Design and I have called Lori Few out. No, no, no. Not at all.

LF: You’re making me nervous.

JW: Lori, to be very honest with you, this topic is something I feel that a lot of our listeners and subscribers could learn from, maybe pick up a few tips and things of what to look for in their own actions. You notice, I didn’t say in Lori’s actions, because it’s self-aware right? Self-aware means we look at ourself, right Lori?

LF: Well, that’s true. But, things tend to get a little blurry when we discuss topics.

JW: I want to get biblical, but there’s that phrase in the Bible that verses says, how can you see that splinter in the other person’s eye with the beam in your own, right? So not to get too biblical this morning. But, so one of the things, Lori, that I am reading and studying recently is about self awareness. I have a very wise, very wise person indeed that helps keep me very self-aware. Her name’s Dina. And so she gave me a phrase years ago… We’ve been married 34 years this September, 25 happily. I’m just kidding. I’m just kidding. And she said a little Jimmy goes a long ways. Lori, do you agree with that statement?

LF: A little. Just a small amount. I mean, I think she might be onto something, but I don’t know. We’ll say… I said that this is touch and go this morning. This could go south in a big hurry.

JW: And we may all have to go south at the end of this episode. So Lori, tell me what self-awareness means to Lori Few.

LF: Oh, you know, I think self-awareness for me… My mom used to tell me the story when I was little and it was a piece of advice. She would say, read the room, you know, go into the room, read the room before you just decide what kind of… I think when you enter a room, especially for the people, whether it’s personal, whether it’s business, whether it’s a social setting, there are all kinds of personalities. There are all kinds of different people. And so you tend to kind of read the room to determine how self-aware you can be. I tend to be a type A personality. I’m very much a go getter, walk into the room, figuring out who’s in the room, tell my idea and then tell them how I’m going to do it. And so I… Can you imagine that, right?

JW: I can’t even find them in my wildest dreams that this would be the case with you, Lori.

LF: And so I have a hard time being self-aware about including other people in the conversation, sometimes, not all the time, but if it’s something that I’m passionate about or something that I know a lot about, or if it’s a project that’s been delegated to me, I am very much, rip off that band-aid come on, let’s go, and I’ll fill you in on my plan as we’re doing it.

JW: Oh, I love that description. You know, the key to me, self-awareness basically has a real component to it of self-consciousness – knowing within myself what I am doing, what I am portraying to those in my midst or what I am I looking like. So body language, now let’s stay with this a minute, Lori, if you’re not, self-aware your body language can communicate more than 90% of what you’re attempting to say to someone that’s listening or watching. How do you feel about that?

LF: Well, I absolutely agree. Nonverbal communication can set the tone before you ever speak a word. You know, you can tell a lot, by the way, people stand, by the way they look across the room, or where they’re positioned in a room, you know, eyebrow raise, which I get a lot of, by the way. Especially when I say things to my husband. You know, he always gives the eyebrow raise before he reacts or says anything. I think that’s his thought process of how to appropriately respond.

JW: He’s a saint, people. If you don’t know Justin, he’s a saint. Don’t let her tell you that. Don’t tarnish his excellent reputation as being a husband, listen to her.

LF: But I think a lot of people use nonverbal communication right off the bat to determine their own self-awareness. Especially if they’re introverted or a little bit unfamiliar setting, I think that’s the first telltale sign. So I absolutely think non-verbal.

JW: So let me take you back to a little actual event. Years ago, I was interviewing a new team member at our company. She looked lovely on paper. She had all the talents we were looking for. She had the capabilities that we thought we needed to grow in the areas we wanted to hire this person, but her non-verbal lack of self-awareness cost her the position, and here’s why. She walked up to me at the first introduction. Keep in mind, all I’ve seen is on paper. I did do some things on social media and looked her over and all that stuff. Very nice person. This isn’t to disparage the person, but she came to me in the first introduction and had a real slouching look. I mean, her posture was horrendous. Now, I’m not picking on posture for those of you that may have back issues. But I’m saying this looks terrible for a girl that’s in her twenties, okay? And then she looked in her face like she didn’t have the time to be there. Her eyebrows were down. Now when your eyebrows are down, Lori, what does that mean to another person?

LF: You’re frowning, you’re scowling. You haven’t had your coffee.

JW: Yeah, for Lori, that’s about 11:00 AM with no coffee in the morning. So there you go. No, no, I’m just kidding again. But so this person really didn’t make a very good first impression and I haven’t even shaken her hand. So we get back into the interview process and then she sits down in the chair. Instead of sitting up straight and looking like she’s engaged, she sat back in the chair, started taking her hands and passing them up and down the arm wrist, and didn’t even look like she was paying attention. She’s looking around the room and I’m like, what is going on? And it just came to me that after she had left, very nice lady, and I was talking to the rest of the team. I go, I just don’t know that that’ll work here because it didn’t seem to me like she was aware that she was not even involved in the interview process on either a personal level or a cognitive level. You see what I mean, Lori?

LF: It’s really hard in the professional setting because part of you wants to assume that she applied for that job because she really wanted to be a part of the team. But sometimes I think it’s just lack of training, especially with young people. I work with a lot of young people. And the first thing that we talk about in the interview process is it’s all about the perception. You have to know what you’re going into, and you have to know those traits about yourself. If you know that you’re nervous and you’re a fidgety person, don’t wear jewelry, something that you’re going to fidget with. If you know that you’re an introvert and you don’t really interact right off the bat, like if it takes you a minute to warm up, we try to work on some of those coping mechanisms to kind of ease that so that you don’t come across that way, because that is absolutely true. You can be stellar on paper and the moment you walk into that room, if you’re not self-aware about the things where you need to grow or be better, then it really can ruin an opportunity that you didn’t even know you really wanted until it was too late.

JW: Absolutely. So what I want to understand today, Lori, and I’d like your help in understanding this a little bit more is to me that self-consciousness, knowing who I am and where I am, and in what situation I find myself takes some self-awareness. It takes the fact of having a combination of not just mental, but physical, even contextual factors. So she was in an office setting with a gentleman wearing a suit and a tie. That in its context alone should have said, “Hey, I think he may be serious about this company.” You have to look at visual cues, right, to know about self-awareness. So, so let’s concentrate today and explore this importance of self-awareness in different settings or in the areas of context within whom we are seeing ourselves as a party. So for example, in a group setting or whatever. So with that, Lori real quick, tell me how the situation of a meeting, describe the factors that came to play, that you noticed that you, not someone else, may not have been self aware enough of the situation. Does that ever happen to you?

LF: It has happened, probably more than I even realized. There have probably been some meetings, but that I’ve walked out of and people have said, “She needs to take it down a notch.” I tend to get really… Can you imagine me taking it down a notch?

JW: I’ve got to tell you Lori, I cannot even picture this.

LF: Well, I had a meeting where I went in and pitched a series of ideas, which I thought were brilliant by the way, because I thought…

JW: Folks, that self-awareness, she knew the quality of the idea.

LF: I was going to say, you’re just saying I’m not brilliant to me.

JW: Oh, no, it was just how you phrased it. And it was a great. That’s confidence, Lori. That’s what that is.

LF: Well, come to find out, none of my ideas were picked up from that meeting. In fact, half of the people in the room I actually offended. And, they were gracious enough to come to me later and say, “Hey, um, here’s what we think would have worked better, and these are the reasons that we didn’t accept your idea or your proposal.” And while I was standing there, of course, horrified and crushed, one that they didn’t pick my, what I thought was a brilliant idea, but two that I had actually come on so strong that I offended someone was really more hurtful to me because that was my absolute last intent. But it tends to come out in different ways. And again, having to read the room and know that what you do and what you say and how you behave can really affect other people in a group setting, especially in a business setting like that. So, you know, I retooled, I regrouped and I worked on my proposal, and it helped that I had a little bit different audience the second time when I pitched it, I loved it and they loved it. So that was really a growth for me, a chance, even as an adult to, to say, “Oh, well, okay, I need to look within and know that I’m learning and I’m growing and it caused me to make some mistakes.” But I learned from those mistakes and the next time it was a success. And so we can’t be afraid… Success is not failure because it does turn into that. You just have to be willing to kind of take it and dissect it and learn from it and get better and grow.

JW: Oh man, I couldn’t have said that better myself. I will tell you that to me, the times that that has happened in a similar situation as you were times that I really invested myself in trying to determine what would be the best solution for the challenge I knew were facing at that meeting. And I mean, I spend time, I prepare, I study, I research. I’ll never come to the meeting that I’m not fully prepared to argue – and that’s a bad term probably – but to argue my point, being a valid one, versus someone who just comes in and goes, “Hey, I hadn’t even read the minutes of the last, I don’t know what we’re talking about.” And they just come up with something off the cuff, right? And I was approached by a chairman one time of a very prestigious board that they had asked for my input. I was young in my career. I was in Tulsa and I already had a heart and passion for this group called the Arthritis Foundation because my family suffers from arthritis, both rheumatoid, inflammatory, and my wife has inflammatory arthritis in one of her knees… I mean, this is a real personal thing for me. And we were facing the challenge of how could we fund our programs? Because we’re running out of funds as most nonprofits do at one point in their lifetime. And I had about three great ideas. I mean, I spent the entire weekend, and this was a Tuesday evening meeting. And I said, I put the effort for it. I even had it… This was before PowerPoint so I had this all down on the yellow pad going, “Hey, here’s something I can do.” And I put it up on the drawing board and I just really pitched this thing. And every time they wanted to tweak something, I just denied it. I was horrible. I summarily put aside anyone’s comments thinking, this is what we’ve got to do. We’re running out of money. I know this will work. And the chair of the meeting afterwards came to me and he said two things. He said, “I love your passion. You bring to these meetings, but I don’t appreciate your ability to shut others down because they didn’t agree with your idea.” Man, it was like a boot to the gut, right? And a lot of respect for this gentleman still do. But when he said that, I love your passion. He didn’t just come out and say one negative. He caged it with a positive, and then he said, Hey, but you need to not shut people down summarily because they don’t agree. I was not self-aware. So what Lori and I are trying to say today for you is look within yourself before you speak, before you say something, before you look at that person, make sure that facial cue is not one that’s angry looking. So another friend of mine, Lori, you’re going to laugh. One of his team came up to him and said, I need to talk to you after the meeting, they’d had just a normal, weekly staff meeting. And this lady, this guy is the CEO of the company. He was telling me the story. I thought it was kind of gutsy. She came up to him and she said, “Hey, what are you angry about?” He said, “I’m not angry. I’m feeling good. I feel great.” She goes, “Your face doesn’t show it. Your face in that room looks angry. That’s why no one’s saying anything in that meeting but you.” And so, he had to go to a mirror. He said, “I sat in front of a mirror practicing. Why do my eyebrows go down? Or why is my lips pursed like I’m upset about something, my chin real taut, you know?” So what I’m telling you, it seems like simple things more, but at the end of the day, they mean tremendous importance to those you’re speaking with. Right?

LF: And well, it’s funny that you say that because you know, when we’re young, our parents look at us and say, “Don’t give me that look. Don’t talk to me with that face. I know you’re not, you know, scowling at me.” And the other thing that our parents teach us and that learn as kids, is that we learn how to compromise and how to work through problems and how to collaborate with other people. And so we learn those very early on in kindergarten, you know, sharing and collaborating with other kids. And then as we get older, we get set in our ways. And so we get a little less self-aware, if you will, of what we’re trying to accomplish. And then as we get older and we get set into our career path, into our relationships, into our friends circle, we start to become a little bit more self-aware. And so it’s kind of this full circle moment from when your mom is telling you, “Don’t give me that look.” But then as an adult, if another adult tells you that, you’re mortified, if you’re me or Jimmy, because we’ve had those experiences. And so you really have to take a look inside, and let me tell you, I am that person. I will look in the mirror and say, what do we got today? Like, what are we… How do we feel? You can’t walk out with this look on your face, because if you do, it’s going to set the tone for every person that you come into contact with. And, you know, especially in times of COVID where we learned to communicate over Zoom and different platforms, we want to be face-to-face with people. And so it is all in the face and it all goes back to that, read the room, gotta read the room.

JW: That is great advice. I’ve got to tell you, it’s so funny though, on these Zoom meetings, when we’re all virtual last year and a half or so, and you’d get somebody on there and the first thing you’d hear, they wouldn’t even realize their mic is on, you know, so we have our setup. Everyone’s muted. Once it’s on, you’ve got to actually unmute your mic, right? Because this person came on with, “Oh, another meeting.” And everybody heard it, right? I mean, it was like 20 people on the call, and that person didn’t realize he looks up and he goes, “Oh, I was just testing my mic.” Too late pal, busted. Right?

LF: Yeah. And then you’re that guy.

JW: You’re that guy. And so, nobody wants to be that girl or that guy. So, to me, Lori, self awareness, it takes multiple dimensions of our being. It can’t just be the physicality of it. You’ve got to have that sincere look about you, wanting to have a sharing of ideas and conversation with someone. But then also you’ve got to have that mental factor that what you’re thinking is what’s going to come out in your conversation or your body language. Right? So, at the end of the day, we’ve got to know that if we’re thinking as Zig Ziglar said, one of my mentors, “Stinking thinking will come out in your body.” But the last thing is the context. You’ve got to look at, as Lori said, read the room, know who’s there. And sometimes people will bring preconceived ideas and they’re not aware they’re putting forth these ideas on something that’s totally off topic. So we don’t want to be the kind of person that’s not aware of, “Hey, they must be going through something that’s got them so distracted or, very much unaware of what we’re doing.” But not to in any way disparage them, but just to move forward in whatever the task is.

LF: Hey Jimmy, I heard a rumor.

JW: Oh no. What rumor did you hear?

LF: I heard that Live a Life By Design is starting a community Facebook page.

JW: You are correct Lori, a Facebook page for Live a Life By Design community that shares ideas, strategies, all kinds of great stuff.

LF: Okay, so not a rumor, an actual truth about a place where you can share positive and uplifting information with other people.

JW: Yeah. Sounds crazy, right? Who would have thought positive and uplifting on a social media platform? But starting the first week of August, that’s exactly what we’re going to do, Lori, so our listeners can have input on the show.

LF: That’s awesome. Make sure you stay tuned and definitely like, and share.

LF: Well, and I think one other thing to think about in terms of context is, in a generation where we’re growing up with things like social media and texting and messaging apps, the way we communicate often can get misinterpreted based on how we choose to read a certain email or message. And you know, if you talk to young people and you say, “Well, that text really sounded angry or mean.” And when you talk to them, they’re like, “Oh no, no, I was just in a hurry, but I didn’t mean that, like I was just saying, here’s the information,” but we tend to internalize that in a context where it’s negative or demeaning or well, are they mad, or what did that mean? And so it’s really confusing. It’s confusing for the young people and it’s confusing for people my age. I’m saying “my age” because I am not old.

JW: So she’s 29, folks, 29 years of age. Hey, my mother… You’re not 40. You don’t even say the word 40. She’s not even close to 40, folks. My mother is 85, Lori, and she sends a lot of her text messages – which that ought to shock everyone, 85 year old texting, but she’s pretty darn good at it – but she sends them all in capital letters. So the first time she did this, I thought, whoa. And then she sent me another message in that same thread, all capital letters. And she put an exclamation point after it. So I call her and I go, “Mother,” and I said, “what are you upset about?” ” Well, I’m not upset.” And I said, “But you just sent me a text with all capital letters. In the world of emojis and texting, that means you’re yelling at me. Something’s got you concerned or you’re upset.” She said, “Oh no son.” She said, “Let me explain. I can see the letters better with these bifocals if they’re larger.

LF: Exactly! Exactly! Something like that completely goes back to context. You thought your mother was yelling at you and she, well, you know, she’s just trying to see the letters.

JW: But the reason why I thought that, Lori, was, I don’t recall a whole lot that happened between the ages of 12 and 13. So my mother straightened out my look of dissuasion, at that time, you know, that “don’t give me that look.” Yeah, “don’t give me that look?” Yeah, she took it off my face. There you go. So let’s talk little bit about this. Self-awareness is an area that we all need to work more. If you could leave our audience and listeners with two or three points that you would like to make to work on this, to be better at it, what would they be?

LF: Two or three points? I would say self-reflection is probably one of them. You know, it’s not something that we want to talk about. We don’t really think about it with ourselves. We get so caught up in doing other things that we don’t think about time to really self-reflect at the end of the day, again, going back to Jimmy’s advice of journaling, which has really kind of revolutionized my thought process at the end of the day. Yes, you’re welcome. I said it, but I think self-reflection is really important. Just kind of decompressing from the day and looking at what you did right versus what you think you could improve on. I think that is very, very, very important, just not only in this subject or this arena, but in everyday life. Being confident, confident enough to say to someone, “Hey, are you okay? Like today didn’t really go that well. Or I was kind of getting a vibe,” and knowing that it’s okay to ask. I think sometimes people are afraid to confront someone, and it’s not really a confrontation, although in society right now, everybody kind of seems to be on edge. But that goes back to the topics that you and I had discussed about being a little bit kinder to yourself and to others and not being so presumptive. And so maybe, maybe the third one is just to, you know, have fun. Like being self-aware can be fun. It can be a little awkward. It can be a little tedious. It can be a little stressful, but you have to laugh at yourself. You have to be willing to kind of look at that experience or exchange between someone… You know, you and I talk a lot about exchanges in the coffee shop, and I accidentally called the same barista to the other day, I thought he was the guy that made my coffee the day before, but it turns out he wasn’t. And I called him by the wrong name. And he laughed at me after he looked at me and he said, “That’s not my name.” And I felt really, really bad. And so in that moment I had to be self-aware that I just really socially had been awkward. And I said to him, “It’s okay, tomorrow I’ll do better.” And I laughed.

JW: And she left with a triple shot of whatever necessary to get her going that day after she made a full pot. I get that, I get that. You know, one of the things I’d like to add – those are all three great recommendations – one thing I’d like to add is this, is I’d like for you to think before you speak, if you are in any doubt as to the other person’s current state of mind. So for example, Lori has said it right on the money everyone’s stressed nowadays, for whatever reason, either isolation or working from home, the stress the kids have been home, not in school this summer, whatever it may be. Hey, you’re entitled to have a bad day. The issue though is, is we, when you meet with one of us on the street, someone outside your inner circle, we don’t want to worsen your day, we want to lessen the burden. So my point here is to say, is be aware of that other person. You know, I love this story, but there was a little boy that came home and his teacher had said he had had a bad grade and that she was going to call his father on his arithmetic. Now the little boy begged the teacher, “Oh, please don’t call my dad. He’ll be so upset.” So the little boy is now all upset. The teacher hadn’t yet even made the call and the little boy gets home that evening. And his dad’s home there. And in the living room they’re sitting down and the little boy looks up and says, “Daddy did Ms. Smith call you?” He said, “Do you have anything you wish to add to what she may have said?” Now, Ms. Smith hadn’t even called. The little boy says, “Well, I don’t know about you, but these teachers make up an awful lot of stuff on us students.” So dad didn’t have a clue, but now he’s wanting to talk to Ms. Smith. My point is the young man was not even aware of the situation in context and worsened his situation. So, you know, at the end of the day, that’s how we work. But you’ve got to remember now, folks, couple of things, the challenge this week, and Lori said it very straight out, is that we need to focus on the areas of life that we need to improve about self-awareness. Know that self, know what pushes your buttons, know how you look, feel, and sound going into meetings with others. I’m not saying every day is rainbows and butterflies. It just so happens that I claimed 92% of mine that way. But you don’t have to. Ask one of your closest friends or perhaps a coworker, or do what I do and ask Lori, say, “Hey,Lori, did that come out in the sincere mode I meant for it, or did it come out a little disingenuous?” And she’s always kind to cut me right down to the core. But,anyway… So, you know, look at how you’re exhibiting self-awareness at work to start with, and then look at how you’re doing it around your mate. You know, Lori said, “Hey, Justin lowers his eyebrows and that’s his first cue that something may not be communicated in a manner he would like to have received it.” At the end of the day, we’re not perfect folks. I will tell you, during this time of total isolation, we may all have needed to practice our self-awareness a little more than we did. So, this is just like an area like the physical body. You have to work at it, Lori, in my opinion, to really get attuned to what you’re doing in a self-awareness state. Your thoughts?

LF: Absolutely. You know, and it’s like I said earlier, self-awareness doesn’t stop you from making the mistakes, it just allows you to see them and learn from them.

JW: Oh, I like that. Folks, if you enjoy what we’re talking about and some of the topics that we see, you’re going to love, what’s coming up. Lori, we have something starting in August 2021, the Live a Life By Design Community Facebook page. We’re going to start a Facebook page that allows everyone to communicate their concerns, challenges, thoughts, tools that they need to help overcome some of the difficulties are facing in life. And we here at Live a Life By Design want to help our fellow man. We believe it’s time that we quit having handouts and start giving hand ups. We want to give you something that you can reach up to and grab a hold up and get some quality improvement in your life. If that’s what you seek. Now, I will say one thing as we close, Lori is about as close to perfect of a human being as I know, and I mean that sincerely, she’s a very talented, very brilliant person. But she said today that she has challenges in self-awareness. I want to assure you, we all do. The top down of individuals in this world, we all have challenges. So let’s do this. Be kind to one another this week, reach out, say hello to those that you haven’t seen in quite a while, or talk with. And let’s get the world back to spinning on a very much a jovial, very much a kind world that we all want to live in and from Live a Life By Design and from Lori Few, we only say one thing. That’s go out, make the world a bigger, better, and bolder place. Lori?

LF: How can you not have a great Monday after that?

JW: Thank you so much for joining us. We’ll see you next week.

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